President Asif Ali Zardari has proposed for formation of a high-level National Literacy Council convened by the Prime Minister to ensure a well-coordinated and effective literacy drive launched throughout the country. In a message on International Literacy Day, the President said the Council aimed at promoting education would include chief ministers and federal and provincial ministers of education, finance and planning as its members. The President said the day is being observed today as an important occasion for planners and decision makers to assess achievements and shortfalls in the field of basic education for prosperity and security of the coming generation. He said, Pakistan is lagged behind most countries of the region in the areas of literacy and primary education. According to Human Development Index, Pakistan is ranked 136th out of 179 countries of the world and we have, so far, been able to make little progress in changing the situation, he said. Zardari said currently, 50 million Pakistanis cannot read or write, adding, the state of affairs demands a review of development priorities and reexamination of strategies. He mentioned the Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which says free elementary education is a fundamental right, with literacy as a core component of education. He said the State of Pakistan in 1973 committed to eradicate illiteracy, while Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the first Prime Minister of Pakistan who signed the declaration of 'Education for All in September 1994 in the presence of UN Agencies and international leaders. The President strongly recommended legislation by the Parliament to recognize and declare free primary education as a fundamental human right in the Constitution of Pakistan. He said inequalities in education stand in the way of balanced and equitable economic development. An illiterate labour force also adversely impacts on national harmony. A literate nation is essential for both prosperity and for the integrity and security of the nation, he added. President Zardari urged the educational planners to adopt a multi-pronged strategy for eradication of illiteracy and provision of basic education to all including children, youth and adults. He said, Together with higher priority to the formal primary education, we must also expand access to non-formal basic education programmes and launch a long term and sustainable programmes which should be purposeful so as to equip illiterate farmers, labourers, and rural women with knowledge and skills which can enhance their income and employability.