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His Excellency Raja Pervez Ashraf Prime Minister of Pakistan

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you as a member of the Benenson Society, a human rights group based at St. Aloysius’ College, Sydney. I am deeply alarmed at the attack on Malala Yusufzai by the Taliban and the fact that her life is still in danger if she survives the attack. I also understand that her family is also in grave danger.

I ask you to please bring the perpetrators of this brutal attack to justice where suspects are given a fair trial, without resorting to the death penalty.

I ask you to publicly affirm your support for human rights defenders in your country so that they can continue their work free from attacks, threats and intimidation.

I also urge you to make all legal and policy reforms necessary to address the threats faced by activists working on women’s rights, in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Yours sincerely,

c/o St. Aloysius’ College 47 Upper Pitt St Milsons Point NSW 2061

A note from the fearless leader:
Tragically, two girls from Pakistan have been in the news in recent weeks. Teenager Malala Yousufzai was targeted by the Taliban in Pakistan for promoting girls education in Pakistan, and was shot in the head in an attempt to silence her. She is in a hospital in London, where signs are hopeful for a full recovery. The attack drew outrage criticism from around the world, and to its credit Pakistan Parliament was unanimous in condemning the attack. In July Farida Afridi, a 25 year-old activist was murdered after she spoke out about girls’ education. Earlier a young Pakistani Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, was charged with blasphemy for allegedly burning the Koran and, because of the draconian blasphemy laws, faced the possibility of life in prison. Rimsha is a mentally impaired and illiterate girl, and it is unlikely that she would even know what the Koran was. Additionally, an imam was later arrested on the charge of setting the girl up as a weapon to drive out local Christians. 250 Christian families have been forced to leave the area. Aasia Bibia mother of five, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case that Benenson has campaigned for, remains in prison.The girl, herself, has been released on bail but she has not yet had the charges dropped. Witnesses who spoke up about evidence being planted have now recanted so Rimsha may face a resumption of prosecution. Now there is word that another young Pakistani girl, Hina Khan, faces threats because of her advocacy of education for girls. There are concerns that the authorities are not taking action to protect her (see story below).

-Chris Middleton SJ

Another Pakistani schoolgirl threatened by Taliban for promoting girls’ education
BY VICTORIA CAVALIERE / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2012, 12:31 PM Hina Khan says her outspoken stance has drawn death threats and the Pakistani government has ignored requests for protection.

AL JAZEERA Hina Khan says her life has been threatened for promoting girls' education. Two weeks after Pakistani schoolgirl MalalaYousufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban, another teen activist says her life has been threatened for promoting girls’ education. Hina Khan, who has spoken out publicly against the Taliban, says her family has asked the Pakistani government for extra protection but their pleas have been ignored.“Soon after Malala’s incident, someone put a red X on our house,” Khan told Al Jazeera English Monday.“My parents received a death threat saying I’m next on their target list. I may not be able to continue my education anymore because of the threats that I might be kidnapped or killed like Malala,” she said. MalalaYousufzai, 15, is slowly recovering at a hospital in London after being gunned down Oct. 9 by two Taliban militants who followed the defenseless teen home from school in

Pakistan’s Swat valley. Malala was targeted because of her “Western thinking” about education for girls, a Taliban spokesman said. The extremist group, which maintains a heavy presence in Swat, has vowed to try again to kill her.

There have been 96 schools attacked by extremists in Pakistan in 2012, with many of those incidents in Swat, according to Human Rights Watch. In July, 25-year-old activist Farida Afridi was murdered in broad daylight near the city of Peshawar, apparently for her work promoting education for girls. Khan’s family moved to Islamabad from the Swat valley six years ago because they have been threatened before."We have already been fighting death since many years when my wife started speaking for women rights and girls’ education," Hina’s father, Raitullah Khan, told Pakistan’s Dawn news site. Hina, who is believed to be 16, held a press conference in 2008 after her friends in Swat told her that militants were escalating attacks on schools.

AL JAZEERA The family's home in Islamabad was painted with a red X - a threat from the Taliban, they say.“I raised my voice publicly to save their future,” she told Dawn.With the renewed threats, the Khan family has asked the Pakistani government for help.“We went to the police and they told us to arrange security for ourselves,” Raitullah Khan told Al Jazeera.“We are asking the government to provide security, but they aren’t giving it,” he said.

Dear Prime Minister,

The Benenson Society is committed to the promotion of human rights around the world through peaceful advocacy. We include school chapters and individual members from fourteen countries.

We are writing to express our concerns about the recent attack on Malala Yousufzai for promoting the education of girls and about the situation facing little Rimsha Masih who still faces prosecution for blasphemy. We also are concerned by reports that another girl, Hina Khan, has been threatened by the Taliban and has not received protection from the authorities.

The reputation of Pakistan is badly damaged by the targeting of girls. There appears to be a tolerance of the Taliban’s use of terror to advance its aims, and regular abuse of the nation’s blasphemy laws to strike at minorities in the country.

The Benenson Society notes the statement by the spokesman of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops that “There is a lack of political will on the part of the government to do anything in the country. We need urgent reforms, juridical, political and civic reforms. Above all we need to remove hate material from the [school] curricula. That is what is needed to bring peace to this country”.

As a matter of urgency we urge you to respond to the plight of Malala, Rimsha and Hina in a manner which respects and upholds our inherit human rights.

Yours sincerely,

c/o St. Aloysius’ College 47 Upper Pitt St Milsons Point NSW 2061.