ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has announced the National Peace Prize for Swat resident Malala Yousufzai, who was earlier nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize 2011.
A prize money of Rs500,000 has also been announced for 13-year-old Malala, a student of class 8, who came into the public eye after she raised her voice for girls’ education during the mayhem in Swat.
Gilani has directed the cabinet division to constitute the National Peace Prize to be awarded to children on an annual basis. Children under 18 years of age will be awarded the prize for their contribution towards peace and education.
Earlier, Malala became the first Pakistani to be nominated for the International Children’s Peace prize and beat 93 contestants from 42 countries to earn her nomination. She fell short of receiving the prize by Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which instead went to a South African handicapped girl.
Malala was nominated because she alone raised her voice against the injustice that girls suffered during militancy in Swat, in which girls were not only barred from attaining education but their schools were destroyed as well. According to the UN, 60% of Swat’s schools were destroyed in the two years of the insurgency.
Malala successfully used the national and international media to let the world know about violations of their rights. She fought bravely for girls’ rights in the militancy hit Swat, focusing on their right to education.
But, most of all, Malala credits her father Ziauddin Yousufzai and her teachers for supporting her in her cause. “I realised the importance of peace and education when extremists destroyed our schools. Education is the key to progress and to ensuring peace in the world,” Malala told reporters after the award was announced.
Malala has been outspoken not just against militants but also against the government, but said that she has faith in the army.
“I was enraged at the politicians and authorities for their inaction in the face of lawlessness,”she said. “The operation restored our confidence in the army in Swat.”
Malala, like many other residents of Swat, had to leave her home and remain an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) for around three months during Operation Rah-e-Raast. But unlike those who populate her neighbourhood, Malala is clear on her opposition to those who want a strict brand of Islam in the region.
“The people of Swat should take home a lesson from the last few years and not patronize any religious extremists in the future,” she says.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP AND REPORTING BY FAZAL KHALIQ IN SWAT)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2011.