The people of Pakistan, by their courage and resilience, have beaten back and prevailed over the dark forces of intolerance, which seek to impose their views through violence, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told a large gathering at the United Nations.
Welcoming Malala Yousafzai at a reception hosted by Pakistan’s Mission to the UN in her honour, she said just like Malala did, the people would always reject those who challenge the vision of Pakistan set out by founding fathers: of a modern, tolerant and progressive Muslim country.
The reception followed an impressive ceremony at which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres designated Malala as UN’s Messenger of Peace. In her remarks, Malala made an impassioned plea for education in Pakistan and beyond.
She called herself a proud Pakistani and a proud Muslim and said that she was obliged to raise her voice against misrepresentation and misperception of her country and her faith. She said that Pakistan was now uniting against extremist forces and showing that the people believe in peace and education and girls in Pakistan believe in their right to go to school.
“There is still a lot more to be done in providing education to girls in Pakistan as indeed in many other countries as well,” she added. Addressing ambassadors, diplomats and top UN officials present at the occasion, Malala expressed the hope that while representing their own countries they also speak out for human rights and for education which was a human right.
She said that the honour she received today from the UN secretary general was also given to Pakistan as well. “I am here to represent my country, Pakistan,” she added. Praising Malala on her appointment as the youngest UN envoy of peace, Ambassador Maleeha said that this was an acknowledgement of the fact that she was an inspiration for young people all over the world and will, in her new role, continue to be a role model and a shining light for global efforts for peace and amity.
Calling Malala an icon of courage and resistance, she said that she epitomizes the courage and resilience of the people of Pakistan who have long defied the odds to overcome the challenges that have confronted the country. “These are the defining traits of the Pakistani people who are determined to defeat the forces of intolerance,” she added.
The Pakistani envoy also highlighted Malala’s role in promoting girls education, saying that one of the reasons why Pakistan’s Nobel prize winner has had such a profound impact on the global conversation about education is that she has exposed the moral crisis of girls’ education for what it is in many countries: a bullet in the head.
“She took that bullet as a symbol of the absolutely non-negotiable and urgent need to make education an innate part of growing up for every girl, in every place and for all times,” she remarked. Girl’s education should be a priority, not least because this was the surest way to women’s empowerment, she said. “None of us, after all can move forward if half of us are held back.”
In paying tribute to Ambassador Maleeha, Malala called her a role model for women all over the world, not just in Pakistan. “Maleeha Lodhi is an inspiring woman who has gone forward with every opportunity and not placed any limit in her way,” she added.