Malala Yousafzai returns to Pakistan for first time in six years

Lucy Bush
March 30, 2018

Nobel laureate and prominent Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai said on Thursday that she had always dreamt of returning to her native Pakistan, almost six years after being shot by Taliban militants for advocating girl's education in the country.

The 20-year-old's unannounced arrival with her parents under tight security at Islamabad's global airport overnight has been met with a tsunami of social media reaction, with many Pakistanis hailing her bravery but others accusing her of a conspiracy to foment dissent.

"I am 20 years old, but have seen many things in life, from growing up in Swat Valley, it was such a lovely place, and seeing extremism and terrorism there from 2007 to 2009, seeing how many difficulties our women and girls faced against those challenges", she said, fighting back tears.

"I had not imagined that she would ever come (back)", Rida Siyal, a student who said she had been a "good friend" of Malala's before the shooting, told AFP.

Malala was shot in the head in October 2012 by Taliban gunmen for promoting girls' right to education, leaving her disfigured and with a brain injury that made her struggle to speak.

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Local media say she will not visit her hometown in northwestern Pakistan because of security concerns.

She became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

"Welcome home", Abbasi told Yousafzai during a press conference, Reuters reported. "There are thousand of girls and boys who stayed back in Pakistan and fought out TTP unlike Malala", wrote Riz Khan hours after Malala arrived in country, referring to the Pakistani Taliban.

Many in Pakistan were jubilant over the visit, including lawmaker Syed Raza Abidi, who welcomed "the courageous and resilient daughter of Pakistan back to her country", on Twitter. She was on her way home in a school van with other girls after taking an exam when the TTP men opened fire on them. Two of her classmates were also injured. On Pakistan Day, March 23, she tweeted, "I cherish fond memories of home, of playing cricket on rooftops and singing the National Anthem in school".

She added that for further treatment, she had to move overseas and now she has to continue her studies there.

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She loved her family and was always there for her husband, children , grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But it's not one of the areas where people have been warned not to travel or to reconsider travel plans.

News of her arrival has been received enthusiastically by many Pakistanis, the BBC's Pakistan correspondent Secunder Kermani reports. She was shot in the head and face but survived after she was taken to the an air ambulance.

However, she has drawn criticism from some in Pakistan as a Western mouthpiece, with a few even suggesting that her shooting was staged. "She advocates for the education of children", he said.

Yousafzai was only 14 when she was shot, but already was well-known for advocating education.

She also called on Pakistanis to come together, stressing unity for the betterment of the nation.

But among the messages of welcome are pockets of intense criticism from some Pakistanis, including hardline Islamists as well as members of the conservative middle class who support education for girls but object to airing the country's problems overseas.

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Other reports by Info About Network

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