President Asif Ali Zardari will visit the United Kingdom on Saturday to meet 14-year-old peace activist Malala Yousafzai, who is being treated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, sources told The Express Tribune.
Foreign office officials, terming the visit as an unprecedented gesture by President Zardari, because the president did not have any diplomatic engagements in the UK other than meeting Malala.
President Zardari who is accompanied by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will meet Malala following a visit to Iran, a source privy to the president’s travel itinerary said.
Malala, who was shot while riding a school bus on October 9 in the Swat Valley, became the symbol of resistance against the Taliban, advocating access to education for girls in an area that has been one of the Taliban’s main strongholds in the country.
Over the past months, the teenage activist has received messages of support from across the globe with some suggesting a Nobel Peace Prize for her. However, back at home certain right-wing elements accused her of being part of the US conspiracy to push Pakistan for a fresh military offensive in the tribal areas.
In a special message, President Zardari said Malala stands tall as a symbol of girls’ education and of defiance against those who wish to impose their obscurantist agenda behind the facade of religion.
To reinforce the idea that Malala represents the government of Pakistan, a special initiative has been launched to give free education to the children.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2012.