PARIS: The Taliban are fighting a lost cause and must accept peace talks, the father of Malala Yousafzai said on Wednesday, accepting a key French award for the Pakistani schoolgirl shot for campaigning for girls’ education.
In an impassioned speech after accepting the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Womens’ Freedom on behalf of the 15-year-old, Ziauddin Yousafzai said his daughter was supported by the world and by God.
“She fell but Pakistan stood up. And the whole world, north, south, east and west, supported her,” he said.
“God protected her and protected the cause of humanity and education.”
In an attack that shocked the world, Malala was shot in the head by a Pakistani Taliban hitman as her school bus made its way through the town of Mingora in the Swat Valley in October.
The bullet grazed her brain, coming within centimetres of killing her, travelling through her head and neck before lodging in her left shoulder. She was then treated in a British hospital.
Yousafzai said the Pakistani Taliban should now see the writing on the wall and “learn from this incident.”
“They should come to talks and to peace and to humanity,” he said, referring to Pakistan’s population and saying that if they wanted to impose their will “they will have to kill 180 million people and that’s impossible.”
Despite coming from a male-dominated society, he quoted a woman Pakistani poet Rabia Basri who wrote: “There has been no lady prophet in history and no woman has been stupid enough to claim to be God.”
Yousafzai added: “In my part of the world, fathers are known by their sons. Daughters are very much neglected. I am one of the few fortunate fathers who is known by their daughter.”
Excerpts from Malala’s blog, which earned her the wrath of the Pakistani Taliban and made her a global icon of courage and hope, were read out to sustained applause.
An entry said: “On my way from school to home I heard a man saying ‘I will kill you’. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back to see if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.”
Malala’s father also evoked the plight of an Indian medical student who was brutally gang-raped in New Delhi and died in a Singapore hospital as well as “girls who are shot, who burn themselves because of child marriage and those who are raped.”
Yousafzai’s daughter first rose to prominence aged just 11 with a blog for the BBC’s Urdu-language service charting her life in Swat under the Taliban, whose two-year reign of terror supposedly came to an end there with an army operation in 2009.
Her attempted murder has sparked calls for her to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Yousafzai also called for a change in global politics, saying his country has suffered enormously in an era when “our children were orphaned, our women were widowed and our schools were lost.”
”Let’s have politics for the people. People should not be sacrificed at the altar of the state,” he said, reminding the audience that were about 160 million children out of school worldwide.
Last month President Asif Ali Zardari announced a $10 million donation for a global war chest to educate all girls by 2015 set up in Malala’s name.
The “Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education” aims at raising billions of dollars to ensure that all girls go to school by 2015 in line with United Nations Millennium goals.