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.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Blackfalds holds annual Charity Check-stop

Central Alberta Victim Services and Blackfalds FCSS benefits from donations

Blood donor clinic set for Dec. 24th in Lacombe

Canadian Blood Services has called for more than 30,000 blood donors across the country

U19 Sting ringette goes 3-2 in Lacombe tournament

Spruce Grove goalie keeps Central Alberta out of medal round

UPDATE: Lacombe Generals finish 2018 on four-game win streak

15 goals in two games has Generals sitting pretty

40-year Big Brother match a gift to Lacombe man

Andy Pawlyk and his Little Brother Chris Selathamby honoured at BBBS Awards Night

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Trump signs order to create US Space Command

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to create a U.S. Space Command.

Groups preparing new pipeline legal challenge, argue government’s mind made up

A Vancouver-based environment charity is readying itself to go back to court if the federal government reapproves the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Notorious Toronto triple killer gets third consecutive life sentence

Dellen Millard gets third consecutive life sentence for father’s death.

‘Subdued’ housing market predicted in B.C. through 2021: report

The Central 1 Credit Union report predicts “rising but subdued sales” over the next three years, with little movement in median home prices.

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

Was there any pop culture this year? Of course there was.

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Price of Alberta oil plummeted so low that Alberta’s Premier said Canada was practically giving it away

Canadians to get low-cost data-only mobile phone plans within 90 days: CRTC

Bell, Rogers and Telus will provide plans as cheap as 250MB for $15

Four per cent of Canadian women report being sexually harassed in the workplace

One per cent of men report being sexually harassed in the workplace

Most Read