Malala visits native town in Pakistan amid high security

Islamabad, March 31 : Nobel Peace Prize winner and young education activist Malala Yousafzai visited her home in Swat Valley on Saturday amid heavy security, more than five years after she was shot in the head there by the Taliban for her defence of female education.

Malala Yousafzai, 20, along with her parents, State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and others landed near her family home in Mingora in the morning with many streets cordoned off by the Army, the Pakistani media reported.

The activist, who is on four-day visit to Pakistan, met her friends and relatives before visiting military education centre Cadet College Guli Bagh, 15 km outside of Mingora.

“My first visit to Swat Valley after five and a half years since the attack. I have never felt so happy. I am proud of my land and culture. The Cadet College is beautiful and I thank the staff and principal for welcoming me. Best wishes and prayers,” Malala wrote in the guest book of the college.

She called Swat “a piece of heaven”.

In October 2012, Malala Yousafzai — then 15 years old — was attacked when she was returning from her school. She was later flown to London for medical treatment.

Speaking to the students of Cadet College, she said: “Peace has been restored in the country due to sacrifices of security forces. My dream has come true.”

According to an official, the activist will visit a school built by the Malala Fund in the Shanga district adjacent to Swat. The fund was created in 2013 by the young activist and her father Ziauddin to raise awareness about the impact of girls’ education.

She arrived in Pakistan on Thursday and was greeted with honours by the government and institutions. The activist was unable to repress her tears in a televised speech broadcast from the office of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in which she said returning to her country had been her dream for the last five years.

“Always it has been my dream that I should go to Pakistan and there, in peace and without any fear, I can move on streets, I can meet people, I can talk to people.

“And I think that it’s my old home again… I am grateful to all of you,” she said.

Her presence has also led to strong criticism and protests, such as the one organized by the country’s main association of private schools on Friday under the slogan “I am not Malala”.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Geo TV, the activist said she plans to return to Pakistan permanently once her studies are completed.

The Oxford University student, who had said that she wanted to run for Prime Minister, said there was “definitely a difference between the Pakistan of today and in 2012” as things were becoming “better”.

Yousafzai, the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, plans to return to Britain on Monday.
(IANS)

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