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‘So much joy seeing my family home’: Malala leaves Pakistan after emotional four-day visit

The Nobel laureate has said she plans to permanently return to Pakistan after completing her studies in Britain.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2018 21:55 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai adjusts her scarf during an interview in Islamabad on March 30, 2018.
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai adjusts her scarf during an interview in Islamabad on March 30, 2018.(Reuters)

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai on Monday ended her first visit to Pakistan since being shot in 2012 by Taliban militants.

During the unannounced, emotional trip, Malala was also able to go to her hometown in Swat Valley and meet government officials including Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who welcomed her back and called her the daughter of the nation.

Malala’s visit was kept secret and her movements were closely guarded as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has threatened to kill her.

Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for advocating girls’ education. Her visit to Pakistan this year is part of the government and army’s drive to show that the country has succeeded in defeating terrorism.

Local media reported that Malala was seen with her parents at Benazir Bhutto International Airport before they boarded a plane to London after the four-day visit. “Malala Yousafzai along with her family left Islamabad,” a government official told local media.

During a reception at the Prime Minister’s Office last week, she tearfully said during a televised speech that it was “a dream” to finally return home. “Always it has been my dream that I should go to Pakistan ... in peace and without any fear.

Malala briefly visited her native Swat valley over the weekend. She tweeted: “I left Swat with my eyes closed and now I am back with my eyes open.”

“I am extremely delighted. My dream has come true. Peace has returned to Swat because of the invaluable sacrifices rendered by my brothers and sisters,” she said at a school outside Mingora, the district’s main town, where she was escorted by the Pakistani military.

Malala also said in her hometown that she had waited for the moment for more than five years, adding that she often looked at Pakistan on the map, hoping to return.

She said she plans to permanently return to Pakistan after completing her studies in Britain.

Earlier in the day, amid tight security, Malala earlier in the day left her hotel in Islamabad, where she had stayed for four days, and in a convoy of vehicles headed to the airport. Touching scenes were witnessed when the now-20-year-old university student left the hotel, thanking Pakistani officials for giving her an army helicopter over the weekend to fly to the Swat Valley, once virtually under the control of militants, and see her home in the northwest town of Mingora.

Read | I’ve never been so happy: Nobel prize winner Malala on return to Pakistan

After visiting Mingora on Saturday, she tweeted that it was “the most beautiful place on earth” for her.

“So much joy seeing my family home, visiting friends and putting my feet on this soil again,” she wrote, as she posted a picture showing her standing at her home’s lawn with her father, mother and brothers.

The trip was a highly symbolic moment for Pakistan, which regularly touts Swat as a success story in its long battle with extremism as it defends itself against accusations by the US and others that its northwest remains a safe haven for militancy.

Read | Joy and hostility greet Malala at Pakistan hometown where Taliban shot her

On Monday, Malala’s uncle Mahmoodul Hassan told The Associated Press that “she is leaving Pakistan with good and memorable memories, but is going back to England because she wants to complete her education there”.

Most Pakistanis warmly welcomed her visit but some launched a campaign on social media against her and she also faced tough questions from journalists. She said she failed to understand why she was being subjected to this kind of criticism.

“We want to work for the education of children and make it possible that every girl in Pakistan receives a high-level education and she can fulfil her dreams and become a part of society,” she told Pakistan’s ARY news channel. (With agency inputs)