Pakistan has declared education for girls as a way to subdue Taliban extremists who wounded a young campaigner last month. A petition honoring Malala Yousafzai has been delivered to Islamabad by UN envoy Gordon Brown.
To mark Saturday as Malala Day as designated by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the presidents of Pakistan and its estranged neighbor Afghanistan vowed separately to tackle deadly Taliban aversion to education for girls.
Pakistani President Ali Zardari described the Taliban shooting of the 15-year-old Yousafzai in a school bus in Swat province on October 9 as an attempt to destroy the country's future prospects.
"Her attackers aren't just trying to kill a daughter of Pakistan. They are trying to kill Pakistan," Zardari said as he received a petition bearing 1 million signatures in support of Yousafzai from UN education envoy Gordon Brown, a former British prime minister.
Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Khan said that Pakistan's leaders "firmly believe" that education "helps fight forces of extremism and intolerance."
Karzai vows hunt for attackers
Visiting India, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his administration would "hunt for Malala's attackers."
In an interview with India's CNN-IBN television network, Karzai accused Pakistan of tolerating the Taliban in border regions alongside Afghanistan for too long.
"Terrorism is a snake, and when you train a snake, you can't expect it will only go in the neighbor's house," Karzai said. "When the attack on Malala happened, this proved our point."
Malala is recovering in a British clinic after miraculously surviving shots to her head and neck. Two other schoolgirls with her were also wounded.
Fear prevails in hometown
In her hometown of Mingora in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley on Saturday, hundreds of students prayed at school assembly for her early recovery.
"We did not organize any open event because our school and its students still face a security threat," said school principal Mariam Khalid.
Ban sent a video message saying Malala is a global symbol of every girl's right to education.
On Friday, Pakistan's government announced a UN-backed scheme to give poor families small cash incentives to send their children to school in a bid to get 3 million more youngsters into education.
ipj/mkg (dpa, AFP, AP)