The world will commemorate November 10 as ‘Malala Day’ in the honour of Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai, from this year as the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced this move on Friday. Events are expected to take place around the world on Saturday to mark one month since Malala was shot. The date November 10 has been chosen to celebrate Malala Day as it marks the 30-day anniversary of the Taliban attack on the 15-year-old education campaigner from Pakistan. The Express Tribune quoted Ban Ki-moon, as saying that Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration for girls’ education the world over. Ban Ki-moon hoped that observing Malala day will build on the momentum of UN's Education First initiative and show that education is a right of everyone, and not a privilege for a few. He also said citizens from across the globe are speaking out for Yousafzai and on behalf of the 61 million children who do not go to school.
Friday, November 9, 2012
By Gordon Brown, Special for CNN
Gordon Brown served as Britain's prime minister between 2007 and 2010 after a decade as the country's finance minister, or chancellor of the Exchequer. In July this year he was appointed as a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.Pakistan has a new heroine and a new cause -- a girl's right to education -- and after Friday's announcements from the Pakistani government that they will adopt new measures to get every child into school by end 2015, that cause has a timetable and a deadline for delivery. Everywhere you go in Pakistan you find people talking animatedly about the 15-year-old girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban last month.A rickshaw touring the streets of Islamabad has a slogan posted on it: "Malala for education and peace." Go to the local girls' school and every girl seems to have written either a poem or a song, a letter or a card to Malala. Listen to the politicians and every speech is laced with references to the courage of Malala. Meet civil society organizations and they will tell you that the audience for their educational demands has risen markedly over the last few weeks. It seems that Malala's courage has awoken Pakistan's silent majority who are no longer prepared to tolerate the threats and intimidations of the Pakistan Taliban. Can Pakistan convert its momentary desire to speak out in support of Malala into a long term commitment to getting its three million girls and five million children into school? Can the politicians, long-criticized for a failure to deliver, find the teachers, the classrooms and the reading materials to give millions of children a basic education? This is what I talked about with Pakistan's leaders. Meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, and in front of a 500-strong audience, many of them from the Swat Valley where Malala was shot, I presented petitions already signed by more than one million people in the international community in honor of Malala and her cause. These signatures were complemented with another one million signatures collected by Pakistani civil society's One Million Signature Campaign to demand free and compulsory education. Another 100,000 signatures from out-of-school Pakistani children are the start of yet another one million-strong petition, this time from the children themselves demanding their right to school.Can Pakistan convert its momentary desire to speak out in support of Malala into a long term commitment to getting its three million girls and five million children into school? Can the politicians, long-criticized for a failure to deliver, find the teachers, the classrooms and the reading materials to give millions of children a basic education? This is what I talked about with Pakistan's leaders. Meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, and in front of a 500-strong audience, many of them from the Swat Valley where Malala was shot, I presented petitions already signed by more than one million people in the international community in honor of Malala and her cause. These signatures were complemented with another one million signatures collected by Pakistani civil society's One Million Signature Campaign to demand free and compulsory education. Another 100,000 signatures from out-of-school Pakistani children are the start of yet another one million-strong petition, this time from the children themselves demanding their right to school.The president and I agreed on a series of deadlines in a plan to ensure all of Pakistan's five million out-of-school children have the opportunity to go to school. Pakistan on Friday asked to join the Accelerated Millennium Development Goal Framework process that will allow the country to assess its current education plans, strategies and obstacles to delivery in consultation with international organizations and then work together to contribute to Pakistan's dream of education for all. A deadline for the final draft of this accelerated plan is set for April 2013 when the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the World Bank Jim Kim and myself, alongside the heads of major international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and the Global Partnership for Education, will meet in Washington with the Ministers of Education and Finance of Pakistan. The aim is to match international and domestic support for realizing the 2015 goal.Five months of intensive in-country work with the Pakistan government, civil authorities and foundations, as well as international organizations, lie ahead to ensure a detailed, budgeted plan. I have suggested to the president that he consider involving all educational groups from civil society interested in achieving the universal goal in the processes. Today there is new hope for the three million girls denied their right to schooling and a new chance to ensure the right to education for all. Pakistan and the international community are united in their goals. We now must deliver. But a more active, more engaged and more determined Pakistani people can ensure that education for all is no longer a slogan but a reality.
Associated PressThey came after dusk and chanted into the night sky "Kill the Hindus, kill the children of the Hindus," as they smashed religious icons, ripped golden bangles off women's arms and flashed pistols. It wasn't the first time that the Hindu temple on the outskirts of Pakistan's largest city was attacked, and residents here fear it will not be the last. "People don't consider us as equal citizens. They beat us whenever they want," said Mol Chand, one of the teenage boys gathered at the temple. "We have no place to worship now." It was the second time the Sri Krishna Ram temple has been attacked, and this time the mob didn't even bother to disguise their faces. The small temple, surrounded by a stone wall, is a tiny religious outpost in a dusty, hardscrabble neighborhood so far on the outskirts of the city that a sign on the main road wishes people leaving Karachi a good journey. Local Muslim residents blamed people from a nearby ethnic Pashtun village for the attack, which took place in late September on the Day of Love for the Prophet, a national holiday declared by the government in response to an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. No one was seriously injured in the attack. It was the latest in a rising tide of violence and discrimination against Hindus in this 95 percent Muslim country, where Islamic extremism is growing. Pakistan's Hindu community says it faces forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam, a lack of legal recognition for their marriages, discrimination in services and physical abuse when they venture into the streets. The story of the Hindu population in Pakistan is one of long decline. During partition in 1947, the violent separation of Pakistan and India into separate countries, hundreds of thousands of Hindus opted to migrate to India where Hinduism is the dominant religion. Those that remained and their descendants now make up a tiny fraction of Pakistan's estimated 190 million citizens, and are mostly concentrated in Sindh province in the southern part of the country. Signs of their former stature abound in Karachi, the capital of Sindh. At the 150-year-old Swami Narayan Temple along one of the city's main roads, thousands of Hindus gather during the year to celebrate major religious holidays. Hindus at the 200-year-old Laxmi Narain Temple scatter the ashes of their cremated loved ones in the waters of an inlet from the Arabian Ocean. But there are also signs of how far the community has fallen. Residents in a city hungry for land have begun to build over Hindu cemeteries, the community's leaders say. Hindus helped build Karachi's port decades ago, but none work there now. Estimates of the size of the Hindu population in Pakistan are all over the map — from 2.5 million or 10 million in Sindh province alone to 7 million across the country — a reflection of the fact that the country hasn't had a census since 1998. It isn't just Hindus who are facing problems. Other minorities like Christians, the mystical Muslim branch of Sufis and the Ahmadi sect have found themselves under attack in Pakistan, where the rise of Muslim fundamentalists has sometimes unleashed a violent opposition against those who don't follow their strict religious tenets. The discrimination has prompted some Hindus to leave for India, activists warn, though the extent is not known. Around 3,000 Hindus left this year, part of a migration that began four years ago, sparked by discrimination and a general rise in crime in Sindh, said DM Maharaj, who heads an organization to help Hindus called Pakistan Hindu Sabha. He said he recently talked to a group of Hindus preparing to move to India from rural Sindh, complaining that they can't eat in Muslim restaurants or that Muslim officials turned them down for farming loans. Even during recent floods, they said Muslims did not want them staying in the same refugee camps. Other Hindu figures such as provincial assembly member Pitamber Sewami deny there's a migration at all, in a reflection of how sensitive the issue is. Earlier this year, there were a string of reports in Pakistani media about Hindus leaving the country, sparking a flurry of promises by Pakistani officials to investigate. In India, a Home office official said the Indian government noticed an upward trend of people coming from Pakistan but called reports of Pakistanis fleeing to India "exaggerated." He said he does not have exact figures on how many Pakistani Hindus have stayed in India after entering the country on tourist visas. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic. There's more of a consensus of the seriousness of the problem of forced conversion of Hindus. Zohra Yusuf, the president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says the pattern goes like this: A Hindu girl goes missing and then resurfaces days or weeks later married to a Muslim boy. During court hearings to determine whether the conversion was voluntary, students from nearby Islamic schools called madrassas often flood the room, trying to intimidate the judges by chanting demands that the conversion be confirmed. Maharaj says he's tried to intervene in roughly 100 cases of forced conversions but has only succeeded in returning a girl safely back to her family once. If a girl decides to renounce Islam and return to Hinduism, she could be signing a death warrant for herself and her family even if her conversion was forced. The Hindu community has also been hurt by a lack of unity within its ranks. Hindu society within Pakistan and elsewhere has historically been divided by caste, a system of social stratification in which the lower castes are often seen as inferior. Members of the lower castes in Pakistan say it wasn't until two girls from a high-caste family were forcibly converted this year that high-caste Hindus took the issue seriously, although it's been happening for years. "We always fight our war ourselves," said Bholoo Devjee, a Hindu activist from Karachi, speaking about the lower castes. In recent months the government has begun to take the concerns of the Hindu community more seriously. In Sindh province, legislators proposed a law to prevent forced conversions in part by implementing a waiting period before a marriage between a Hindu and a Muslim can go forward, and there's discussion about proposing such a law on the national level as well. In the case of the Sri Krishna Ram temple, law enforcement authorities opened a blasphemy case against the people who rampaged through the building. But residents here are skeptical that these developments signify any long-term improvement in their plight. Weeks after the incident no arrests have been made, and the Hindus complain that no high-ranking Hindu officials have come to visit them or help them get compensation. Sunda Maharaj, the spiritual leader at the temple, which was first attacked in January 2011, said he and the other residents do not want to move to India. "We are Pakistani," he said. But he would like more help from the government, specifically a checkpoint to stop people from getting close to the temple and money for the Hindus to buy weapons. "Next time anyone comes we can kill them or die defending our temple," he said.
Malala, the teenager being treated in Britain for gunshot wounds inflicted by the Taliban in Pakistan, on Friday thanked her global supporters, one month on from the brutal attack. "She wants me to tell everyone how grateful she is and is amazed that men, women and children from across the world are interested in her well-being," said her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, on behalf of the 15-year-old. "We deeply feel the heart-touching good wishes of the people across the world of all caste, colour and creed," he said in a statement issued by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, where Malala is being treated. Her father added: "I am awfully thankful to all the peace-loving well-wishers who strongly condemn the assassination attempt on Malala, who pray for her health and support the grand cause of peace, education, freedom of thought and freedom of expression." The hospital on Friday published photos of Malala sitting and reading a book, while others showed her poring over get-well cards. Armed men in Mingora, the main town in the Swat valley (northwest Pakistan), shot Malala in the head and shoulder on October 9 after stopping the school bus on which she was travelling. The attack was claimed by the insurgent Taliban Movement of Pakistan (TTP), allied to Al-Qaeda. They claimed to have targeted Malala because of her "pioneering role" in calling for girls' education, and because of her general criticism of the Taliban. The teenager was transferred on October 15 to the central England hospital, which specializes in the treating British soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.
Politicians urged to back nomination of 15-year-old girl shot by Taliban while campaigning for girls' education in Pakistan