The father of the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, shot for campaigning for girls' education, said yesterday that the Taliban were fighting a lost cause and must accept peace talks.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, accepting the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women's Freedom on behalf of his 15-year-old daughter, said in an impassioned speech that Malala was protected 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."
Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban hitman, in an attack that shocked the world, as her school bus made its way through the town of Mingora in Pakistan's Swat Valley in October.
Yousafzai said the Taliban should now see the writing on the wall and learn from the incident.
"They should come to talks and to peace and to humanity," he said. Referring to Pakistan's population, Yousafzai said that if the Taliban wanted to impose their will, "they will have to kill 180 million people and that's impossible."
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 said: "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."
Last month Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, announced a US$10 million donation for a global female education war chest set up in Malala's name. The Malala Fund for Girls' Right to Education aims to raise billions of dollars to ensure that all girls go to school by 2015 in line with United Nations Millennium goals.