PESHAWAR (AFP) - Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taleban to champion girls' rights to education, paid tribute Friday to a teenager killed stopping a suicide bomber from attacking a school.
Aitzaz Hassan, 15, a student in Hangu district, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has become a national hero after he tackled the bomber who had come to attack his school on Monday, at a time when hundreds of students were inside.
Hassan died in hospital after the bomber blew himself up at the school gates. No one else was wounded or killed in the incident.
Police in Pakistan's troubled northwest have already recommended Hassan for a top civilian honour.
Malala described him as "brave and courageous".
"In sacrificing his own life, Aitzaz protected hundreds of innocent young students from being killed," she said in a statement. "I wish that in giving his own life he helps to bring peace to my people and my country," she said.
Malala, who was last year nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, offered condolences to his family and called for the government to award Hassan its "highest national award".
"His bravery must never be forgotten," she said.
Nasir Khan Durrani, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief of police, has written to the provincial chief minister recommending Hassan for a posthumous award, a police statement issued late Thursday said.
"The suicide bomber tried to enter the school where hundreds of students were studying. Aitzaz Hassan sacrificed his life and stopped the bomber with bravery and courage," the police statement said.
"He saved the lives of hundreds of innocent students with his extreme valour and bravery." Pakistan has several categories of civilian award and it will fall to the government to decide which, if any, Hassan should receive.
Hassan's father Mujahid Ali Bangash told AFP on Thursday he felt not sadness but pride at his son's death.
"Many people are coming to see me but if they try to express sympathy, I tell them to congratulate me instead on becoming the father of a martyr," he said.
"I will be even more than happy if my second son also sacrifices his life for the country." Local media are calling Hassan a hero, while social media is demanding recognition for him.
An editorial in Dawn, the country's oldest English-language newspaper, said Hassan's selfless bravery should be an inspiration to other Pakistanis and a lesson to the authorities in the courage needed to stand up to extremists.