Global Malala war chest for girls’ education launched

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Updated 11 December 2012
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Global Malala war chest for girls’ education launched

PARIS: Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday announced a $ 10 million donation for a global war chest to educate all girls by 2015 set up in the name of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taleban for campaigning for girls’ education.
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.
Pakistan Education Minister Waqas Akram signed the agreement with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization head Irina Bokova.
“A young determined daughter of my country was attacked by the forces of darkness,” Zardari said at the high-profile “Stand Up For Malala” event at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
“We are facing two forces in the country; Malala represents the forces of peace and we are fighting with the forces of darkness, hatred and violence,” he said.
The ceremony drew French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, former British Premier Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and the former presidents of Finland and Chile.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton send special videotaped messages of support.
The 15-year-old schoolgirl, who is recovering in a British hospital after being brutally attacked on her school bus on Oct. 9, will herself join the campaign when she is better.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, a former teacher and headmaster has been appointed to help in what Brown has dubbed a new ‘Malala Plan’ to get all girls into school around the world by the end of 2015.
Zardari slammed Islamic fundamentalists for giving the religion a bad name.
“The first word of the holy Qur’an is ‘Iqra’ which is read,” he said, attacking the “fringe minority of darkness, of hatred, of conflict.
“What extremists fear is a girl with a book in her hand,” he said.
The UN estimates that 61 million children do not go to school and girls account for two-thirds of this number.
In an attack that shocked the world, Malala was shot in the head as punishment for the “crime” of campaigning for girls’ rights to go to school.
She survived the murder attempt but requires reconstructive surgery after the bullet grazed her brain, coming within centimeters of killing her.
Brown said the initiative, which he hoped would attract “billions of dollars of public subscriptions,” also aimed at stopping social evils such as child marriage and violence against girls.
He said he wanted Malala’s birthday, July 12th, to be designated a day of action each year when children around the world are invited to march, demonstrate, petition and pray for education to be delivered worldwide.
Clinton highlighted the pressing need for universal education, saying: “Closing the education gap is a powerful prescription for economic growth.” Ashton said the EU, which yesterday collected this year’s Nobel Peace Prize said the estimated 930,000-euro ($1.2 million) prize money would be donated to help children affected by war.


Tens of thousands protest as Armenia crisis deepens

Updated 46 min 45 sec ago
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Tens of thousands protest as Armenia crisis deepens

  • Russia — which has a military base in Armenia — earlier said it was watching the situation “very closely” but reiterated it would not interfere
  • Demonstrators marched through Yerevan against the ruling Republican Party’s unwillingness to transfer power after its leader and former president Sarkisian stood down from his new post of prime minister

YEREVAN: Armenia’s political turmoil deepened with fresh protests set for Thursday after the opposition accused the ruling party of refusing to cede power following the resignation of veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian.
Protesters clapped, whistled, beat drums, banged pots and tooted car horns in demonstrations that underscored the political crisis gripping the impoverished former Soviet republic.
Many raised their hands in the air — a sign that the protest movement led by opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan is peaceful — and robed priests joined the rallies in an apparent attempt to prevent possible clashes.
Led by 42-year-old Pashinyan, thousands of demonstrators earlier in the day marched through Yerevan against the ruling Republican Party’s unwillingness to transfer power after its leader and former president Sarkisian stood down Monday from his new post of prime minister.
Pashinyan sported his trademark khaki-colored T-shirt and clutched a megaphone as protesters chanted “Nikol for prime minister” and “We are the masters of our country.”
Stepan Grigoryan, a political analyst who joined the rallies, said it was a do-or-die situation, describing the current system as “criminal.”
“The head has been chopped off,” he said, referring to Sarkisian’s resignation Monday, “but the body — the Republican Party — remains and it needs to be removed.”
In a surprise move, Sarkisian, who served as president for a decade, stood down as prime minister just a week after being elected by parliament, following days of protests by demonstrators who accused him of a blatant power grab.
Pashinyan, leader of the Civil Contract Party, had been due Wednesday to hold talks with acting government head Karen Karapetyan to discuss a “peaceful” power transfer. But the negotiations were canceled late Tuesday.
Addressing supporters on Wednesday night, he called on Karapetyan to “immediately recognize our revolution’s victory and abandon his ambitions.
“If the Republican Party dares to present a candidate the people will surround the parliament and government buildings,” he said.
Pashinyan has insisted the new premier must be a “people’s candidate” and not a member of Sarkisian’s party, and has said he is willing to lead the impoverished country.
“We need the Republicans to leave, or else nothing will change,” said Varazdat Panoian, 28, who joined the crowds gathered in the capital.
The Yelk opposition bloc said Wednesday it would nominate Pashinyan for prime minister. But a lawmaker from the bloc, Edmon Marukyan of the Bright Armenia party, said Pashinyan was currently 13 votes short of a majority. A candidate would need 53 votes to get elected.
A small member of the current ruling coalition, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, said it was leaving the coalition on Wednesday evening calling for a new prime minister to be elected to “overcome the political crisis.”
But the move posed no immediate threat to the Republican Party’s rule as it still held 58 seats in parliament.
On Wednesday, Serzh Sarkisian called a meeting with Republican MPs to explain the reasons for his resignation and discuss the party’s future in a statement reported by Armenian media.
“As much as I am determined not to interfere in political processes after my resignation, I now believe that I must do this,” Sarkisian said.
“I invited you to talk about peace and stability,” he said.
Karapetyan, who has accused Pashinyan of promoting his own agenda, proposed holding a snap election so voters themselves could decide on the new leader under a parliamentary system of government.
Armenia’s President Armen Sarkisian, who is no relation to Serzh Sarkisian, and is a ceremonial figurehead, urged compromise.
The Kremlin on Wednesday said Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke to Armen Sarkisian, urging “all political forces in the country to show restraint and responsibility.”
Russia — which has a military base in Armenia — earlier said it was watching the situation “very closely” but reiterated it would not interfere.
Russia hopes that a “stable solution” can be found, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, stressing that it was however an “internal matter” for the country to deal with.
The opposition had accused 63-year-old Serzh Sarkisian of wanting to extend his grip on power under a new parliamentary system, saying he failed to tackle a litany of problems including poverty and corruption.