WASHINGTON: Pakistani global icon Malala Yousafzai told US President Barack Obama to call off the highly controversial drone campaign in the tribal regions as these are fuelling resentment among the people.
The teenage activist met with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Oval Office on the same day the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“I thanked President Obama for the US work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees. I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education, it will make a big impact,” Malala, an advocate for girls’ education and the target of a Taliban assassination attempt, said in a statement after the meeting.
Malala’s statement came two days after Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s chief Hakimullah Mehsud came out of hiding to offer a quid pro quo in a BBC interview: Stop US drone strikes and Taliban would cease fire.
Interestingly, a gunman from the same infamous group had shot and critically injured Malala in October 2012 while she was returning home from school in Swat. She was flown to a hospital in Britain, where she now lives.
Malala said she was honoured to meet with the president, who is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. She called for greater cooperation between the governments of the United States and Pakistan.
The White House said in a statement that in the meeting President Obama signed a proclamation to mark Friday as the International Day of the Girl.
“Across the globe there are girls who will one day lead nations, if only we afford them the chance to choose their own destinies. And on every continent, there are girls who will go on to change the world in ways we can only imagine, if only we allow them the freedom to dream,” says the proclamation.
The White House said that the president and the first lady ‘welcomed’ Malala and thanked her for her “inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan”.
“The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams,” it said. “We salute Malala’s efforts to help make these dreams come true,” it added.
As the first lady has said, “Investing in girls’ education is the very best thing we can do, not just for our daughters and granddaughters, but for their families, their communities, and their countries”.
She has won a raft of international honours. She thrilled participants at a World Bank function on Friday and she was scheduled to speak at a book event at the Sidwell Friends School, which Obama’s daughters attend.