United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon adds his voice to the messages from over 1 million people across the globe.
Text of the Secretary-General video message in support of Malala Yousafzai and Girls’ education:
Malala Yousafzai is a global symbol of every girl’s right to an education.
On November 10th, citizens from across the globe are speaking out for Malala and on behalf of the 61 million children still not in school.
My Special Envoy for Global Education, Mr. Gordon Brown, will deliver a petition in support of Malala and the universal right to education. I am adding my voice to the messages from over 1 million people across the globe.
Education is a fundamental human right. It is a pathway to development, tolerance and global citizenship.
Join us in our campaign to put education first — for Malala and girls and boys throughout the world.
Pakistan continues to suffer from the historic flooding that submerged over a fifth of the nation. With over 2o million people displaced by the disaster, and billions of dollars in damage, it is disgraceful how little attention is being paid to the ongoing effects of the floods.
As we posited recently, media headlines – or the lack thereof – are considered a major reason why humanitarian relief is not coming as quickly as it should.
What is more disgraceful, though, is that the American media appears to be giving more attention to the Florida pastor who is organizing an event to burn Qurans than to the needs of Pakistani people.
A search of Google News this morning returned 9,921 links for the keywords “Quran Burning” over the past week, and only 5,854 links for the keywords “Pakistan floods”. This is shameful.
The United Nations has declared the Pakistan flooding the worst humanitarian crisis ever. It presently affects over 21 million people. While the death-toll has, thankfully, been relatively low, the destruction has been immense. With over 20 percent of the nation submerged by flood waters, houses, crops, business, and national infrastructure has been destroyed across the nation. And the disaster is growing.
“Everything I saw and heard today confirmed that this disaster — already one of the largest the world has seen — is still getting bigger.”
The Council on Foreign Relations has warned that, beyond the immediate human suffering caused by the floods, the disaster threatens the stability of a close American ally.
The deadliest floods in Pakistan’s sixty-three-year history have killed over 1,600 and affected nearly fourteen million people. The devastation is sorely testing the government’s capacity, and setbacks are likely in its efforts toward economic growth and development, fight against militancy, and the country’s civil-military relations.
Despite the clear and present danger posed by ignoring Pakistan’s need for relief and reconstruction, the American media has focused more on the publicity stunt of a small-time extremist. Rather than give a platform for the divisive and destructive antics of small-time fanatics, agenda setting media organizations should devote more time and resources to raising awareness and promoting constructive solutions to the needs of our friend and ally, Pakistan, in this their time of need.
The murders of over 90 Pakistani citizens last week because of their religious beliefs makes clear that Pakistan’s parliament must amend the Constitution to remove sectarian clauses that in part incite such violence.
Section 260(3) of Pakistan’s constitution defines whom the law considers a Muslim. This is exceedingly important because the constitution restricts certain government offices to Muslims. For example, Section 41(2) requires that the President be “a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age.”
But more than simply disenfranchising some citizens, the sectarian clauses in the constitution have created second-class citizens of religious minorities, and given fodder for the hateful rhetoric of extremists that encourages such violence as was witnessed last Friday.
In fact, the massacre of the Ahmadis was not the first time that a religious minority has suffered violent attack in recent months. Last August, religious extremists attacked a community of Christians in Gojra, killing many and burning down several dozen homes.
Pakistan’s parliament and President Zardari were quick to condemn the attacks in Gojra and provide funding to compensate victims, but until the government purges the aberrant laws that extremists use to justify these attacks, future violence is all but inevitable.
Cornell doctoral student Basit Riaz Sheikh, agrees. Writing for English-language daily, Express Tribune, Sheikh notes that the sectarian tensions that increasingly flare up today are rooted in the regime of dictator Zia-ul-Haq.
Until 1977, when Bhutto’s government was toppled, Pakistan was free of any major sectarian and ethnic tensions. The ten years of Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorial regime would transform Pakistan from a tolerant society into one marred with ethnic and sectarian divisions and hate-driven politics. He fully crippled the religious freedom of minorities by imposing draconian laws in the name of the Anti-Islamic-Activity Act. Zia vanished, but we continue to pay for his sins.
The remnants of his era, in the shape of many in our media now and others, continue to insinuate hatred against minorities, the West, and all others who disagree with them. It goes beyond my imagination that we let these hate-mongers freely express their extremist sentiments on TV channels under the pretext of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to spread hate.
To build a stronger and a united Pakistan, we need to cleanse our constitution of the provisions that continue to divide us.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recognized the Zardari government’s progress in the area of religious freedom in Pakistan, but points out that until discriminatory legislation promulgated by previous administrations is removed, religious minorities will continue to suffer.
The Zardari government has taken some positive steps regarding religious freedom. In November 2008, the government appointed prominent minority-rights advocate Shahbaz Bhatti as Federal Minister for Minorities with cabinet rank. Mr. Bhatti has publicly promised that the Zardari government will review Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and that the government is committed to protecting the rights of minority religious communities, including by implementing a five percent quota for religious minorities in federal government employment. In March 2009, the government appointed a Christian jurist as a judge in the Lahore High Court. It is not yet clear what impact these developments will have on religious freedom, which has been severely violated by successive Pakistani governments in the past. Discriminatory legislation, promulgated in previous decades and persistently enforced, has fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance and eroded the social and legal status of members of religious minorities, including Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadis, Hindus, and Christians.*
Article 33 of Pakistan’s constitution requires the state to “discourage parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices among the citizens.” This vital mission of the government cannot be achieved while sectarian prejudice is codified in the nation’s laws. In order to protect the rights and the safety of all citizens, Pakistan’s Parliament should immediately move to amend the constitution by removing Section 260(3) and other sectarian laws.