Malala the 'pride of Pakistan': PM

AFP , Friday 10 Oct 2014

File Photo: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, applauds as Malala Yousafzai addresses the ‘Malala Day’ Youth Assembly, at United Nations headquarters, Friday, July 12, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Malala Yousafzai was hailed as the "pride of Pakistan" by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, as a former fellow pupil said the award was a victory for every girl in the country.

Political leaders and activists alike rallied around Malala, the youngest ever Nobel laureate, expressing their support for the student who moved to Great Britain after being shot in the head by Taliban militants two years ago.

"She is (the) pride of Pakistan. She has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparalleled and unequalled. Girls and boys of the world should take the lead from her struggle and commitment," Sharif's office said in a statement sent to AFP.

The 17-year-old is Pakistan's second-ever Nobel laureate after Abdus Salam, who won the physics prize in 1979 but was widely shunned for being a member of the country's persecuted Ahmadi minority.

Sharif was joined in his tribute by residents of her native Swat Valley, the northwestern area that was ruled by Taliban militants from 2007 to 2009 who violently opposed girls education, razing hundreds of schools.

Ayesha Khalid, who was at school with Malala, said: "It's not Malala alone winning this award, the girls of Pakistan have won it...(she) is the light of our eyes and the voice of our heart.

"She has proved that you can't put a halt to education by blowing up schools."

Shama Akbar, 15-year-old student in the region's main city of Mingora, added: "The prize proves that the Pakistani is not a nation of terrorists but against the terrorists. It also proves that Pakistanis love education."

Rights activists said they would hold an event outside the press club in Peshawar, the main city of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, later Friday to mark Malala's win.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party governs the province, tweeted: "Want to congratulate Malala on Nobel Peace Prize. Proud as Pakistani for her Nobel prize, especially for (the) cause of education which must be our national priority."

Malala, who won along with Indian Kailash Satyarthi, was awarded the EU's prestigious Sakharov peace prize last year, angering the Taliban who issued a fresh threat to murder her.

"She is getting awards because she is working against Islam," Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP at the time.

The Taliban were not alone in their opposition to Malala, with many critics from Pakistan's conservative and hyper-nationalist middle-classes accusing her of being a Western puppet who was damaging Pakistan's reputation abroad.

A man in an Islamabad bookshop who identified himself as Fahad said: "Malala rose to fame because she works against Islam and the tradition of Pakistan, that is why Malala does not deserve such a prize."

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