Malala Yousafzai returns to Pakistan for first time since she was shot by Taliban

Nobel Peace Prize winner says she will continue fight for girls’ education

A Pakistani customer reads the book written by Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban attack, in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Thursday said she was excited to be back in Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in 2012 by Taliban militants angered at her championing of education for girls.

Yousafzai said in a brief speech at a ceremony at Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s office that she will continue to campaign for the education of girls and asked Pakistanis to be united on issues like providing better health care and education.

She said she remembered having to leave Pakistan for treatment after she was attacked. Covering her tear-filled eyes with her hands, Yousafzai said it was hard to wait for more than five years to return home.

“It is now actually happening and I am here,” she said.

Abbasi praised Yousafzai for her sacrifices and role in the promotion of girls’ education. He said he was happy to welcome her home, where he said terrorism has been eliminated.

Since her attack and recovery, Yousafzai has led the “Malala Fund,” which she said has invested $6 million in schools and to provide books and uniforms for schoolchildren.

“For the betterment of Pakistan, it is necessary to educate girls and empower women,” she said.

Earlier, tight security greeted the now-20-year-old university student upon her arrival at Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport. Local television showed her with her parents in the lounge at the airport before leaving in a convoy of nearly 15 vehicles, many of them occupied by heavily armed police.

Her return had been shrouded in secrecy and she was not likely to travel to her hometown of Mingora in the Swat valley, where the shooting occurred.

READ MORE: Malala’s triumph against extremism

READ MORE: B.C. filmmaker wraps up Malala documentary

Yousafzai was just 14 years old but already known for her activism when Taliban gunman boarded the school van in which she was sitting and demanded to know “who is Malala?” before shooting her in the head. Two of her classmates were also injured. In critical condition, Yousafzai was flown to the garrison city of Rawalpindi before being airlifted to Birmingham in Britain.

She has since spoken at the United Nations, mesmerizing the world with her eloquence and her unrelenting commitment to the promotion of girls’ education through the Malala Fund, a book, meetings with refugees and other activism.

She was awarded the Nobel in 2014, along with Indian child-rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, and said on the day she collected the prize that “Education is one of the blessings of life, and one of its necessities.”

She remained in Britain after undergoing medical treatment there and was accepted to the University of Oxford last year.

At home in Pakistan, however, she has been condemned by some as a Western mouthpiece with some even suggesting on social media that the shooting was staged. Yousafzai has repeatedly responded to the criticism with a grace far outstripping her years, often saying education is neither Western, nor Eastern.

Often when she has spoken in public she has championed her home country and spoken in her native Pashto language, always promising to return to her home.

On March 23 when Pakistan celebrated Pakistan Day, Yousafzai tweeted, “I cherish fond memories of home, of playing cricket on rooftops and singing the national anthem in school. Happy Pakistan Day!”

Local television channels have been showing her return to Pakistan with some replaying the horror of her shooting and the rush to get her treatment.

Pakistani officials say they captured several suspects after the attack on Yousafzai, but the head of the Taliban in Pakistan, Mullah Fazlullah, was still on the run and believed to be hiding in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Fazlullah’s spokesman, Mohammad Khurasani, earlier this month said Fazlullah’s son was among 21 “holy warriors” killed by missiles fired by a U.S. drone at a seminary in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Are you a senior needing help during COVID-19? These Chilliwack volunteers are here for you

Picking up groceries and phone chats are just some of the services being offered at no charge

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Chilliwack Learning Society finds new way to get free books to kids amid COVID-19 pandemic

Debbie Denault is hoping others will join her in handing out free books in their own neighbourhoods

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

‘I love you this much’: Chilliwack firefighters share drone video on two-metre physical distancing

The Chilliwack Firefighters Association has been doling out helpful, visual reminders about COVID-19

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Insurance shock for B.C. condo owners

Claim-free two-year-old townhouse complex told premium will nearly triple

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

Most Read