Islamabad: UN special envoy Gordon Brown attended a ceremony where Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari launched yesterday a scheme for providing free education to children from poor families in the country.
Gordon, a former British prime minister, is on a visit to Pakistan as special envoy of the UN secretary general on global education.
The supplemental scheme launched by the president under the already operational Benazir Income Support Programme is aimed at enrolling three million children for primary education in the next four years.
Speaking on the occasion‚ President Zardari said Benazir Income Support Programme is the flagship programme of poverty alleviation and women empowerment in Pakistan.
Education being a provincial subject‚ the President urged provinces to extend all possible support to the scheme and said he would personally monitor its progress and implementation.
He thanked donor institutions and countries for their support to the Benazir Income Support Programme.
Gordon Brown praised the initiative of Pakistani leadership and said it is a manifestation of their resolve to secure better future for their children through education.
The UN Envoy said he has brought a petition signed by one million people around the globe in support of Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai, who was wounded in a gun attack and is currently under treatment in a UK hospital, and her vision for promotion of education.
He said launching of the scheme by the president reflects determination of not only the government and the parliamentarians but also the entire country that every single child will have a chance for education.
The special UN envoy said the international community‚ the World Bank and many countries want to work with Pakistan to tackle the problems of poverty and ignorance.
He expressed pleasure that Pakistan has matched the petition he has brought from international community by signing of petition by a million Pakistanis for the cause of education. On the occasion‚ President Zardari signed the petition of the million signatures.
In London, more than 87,000 people have signed a global petition calling for Malala to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, campaigners said.
The 15-year-old is recovering in hospital in Britain after Taliban gunmen in her native northwest Pakistan shot her on her school bus last month for daring to campaign for the right of girls to go to school.
“A Nobel Peace Prize for Malala will send a clear message that the world is watching and will support those who stand up for the right of girls to get an education,” said Shahida Choudhary, a British campaigner involved in the petition.
Choudhary said she wanted British Prime Minister David Cameron and prominent politicians to write to the Nobel committee in Sweden to recommend Malala for the award.
“Malala doesn’t just represent one young woman, she speaks out for all those who are denied an education purely on the basis of their gender,” Choudhary added.
The petition at Change.org originally started by in Canada by Tarek Fatah, a writer and broadcaster.
Meanwhile, regretting the attack on Malala, Pakistan’s Minister of Education and Training Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf described her as a symbol of “courage” and “confidence” who stood up for girls’ education and said she would be back soon.
“Malala has come out of dark time where school was shut....the girl stood up for education. She came out. She has shown more courage for the girls of my country and for the world. She is a symbol for courage, confidence,” Yousaf said.
Observing that terrorism remains a big challenge for his country, he said the “incident (attack on her) was unfortunate and in our country and internationally we regret what happened. We are fighting against terror.”
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the E-9 education conference here, he said Pakistan needs quality teacher training and good schools as it strives to attain E-9’s mandate of education for all, but lamented that “our budget goes to defence because of terrorism activities”.
Malala 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.
“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.
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 in northwest Pakistan, shot Malala in the head and shoulder on October 9 after stopping the school bus on which she was travelling.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed to have targeted Malala because of her “pioneering role” in calling for girls’ education, and because of her general criticism of the Taliban.
– With inputs from agencies