Islamabad - Former President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday felicitated Malala Yousufzai as “the pride of Pakistan” who as the world’s youngest Nobel laureate has sent a powerful political message that Pakistan is much more than what critics call ‘the epicentre of international terrorism.’

“The Noble Peace Prize to Malala is a declaration that if cowardly militants can rear their ugly heads, there also are the hands to put those ugly heads down,” said the former president in his message of felicitations.

Malala’s courageous defiance of militants is an extraordinary attempt to change the society from within as against imposing a change from the outside, the former president said adding, “This indeed has been the focus of the prize when it was first instituted by Alfred Nobel.”

A nation whose children can produce Malalas can never be cowed down by the extremists and their perverted religious ideology, he said. Malala symbolises the defiant cry of human spirit against bigotry, fanaticism and religious extremism that will continue to echo unto eternity, Asif Zardari said.

The former president said that the honor bestowed on Malala by the international community is a declaration that religious bigotry can best be banished through collective action.

The Noble Peace Prize to Malala will spur quest for education, particularly women education, in the country. And this is what we need more than anything else, he said recalling the words of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, “If women are truly to be defined by their own accomplishments, they need the level of education that empowers them.”

Asif Ali Zardari also referred to the question asked by Malala in her acceptance speech and called upon the intellectuals and leaders of thought to answer: ‘Why is it that giving guns is so easy, but giving books is so hard?”