By Muhammad Luqman
Malala Yousafzai , the youngest ever Nobel laureate, became emotional while speaking at the homecoming ceremony at Prime Minister House in capital Islamabad on her return to Pakistan after more than five years away.
“I have dreamed of returning to Pakistan for the past five years,” said Malala Yousafzai with tearful eyes while speaking at a function on Thursday.
20-years old Yousafzai returned to Pakistan on a four-day visit early Thursday accompanied by her father Ziauddin, Farah Mohamed and Amirobyn Thompson. The Oxford University student from Swat has been living in the United Kingdom after surviving a Taliban attack in the year 2012 that necessitated her departure abroad for medical treatment, according to media reports.
“Today, I am very happy that, after five-and-a-half years, I have set foot on the soil of my nation again,” she began in Urdu. Switching to Pashto, she said: “Today is the happiest day of my life, because I have returned to my country, I have stepped foot on my nation’s soil again and am among my own people.”
“I am very happy, and I still can’t believe ─ if I am honest ─ I still can’t believe that this is actually happening, this is real. For the last five years, I have dreamed of returning back home. And whenever I would be in plane or a car and I would see the cities of London or New York, I would say to myself], ‘Just imagine that this is Pakistan, imagine that you are driving in lslamabad, imagine that this is Karachi’, and it was never true. And now that I am seeing it today, I am very happy,” she continued in Urdu, pausing to wipe tears away from her eyes.
“I was born in 1999,” she said, stopping to wipe more tears from her eyes. “I don’t cry often,” she laughed.
“I am now 20-years-old, but I have seen a lot over the course of my life. From growing up in Swat ─ it was such a beautiful place ─ to then seeing terrorism and extremism from 2007 till 2009. And then seeing how many difficulties women and girls face in our society, and how we can fight against those challenges.”
“And then being attacked, leaving my country…Everything was happening itself, I could not control anything. If it was my call, I would never have left my country. The doctors performed surgery on me and saved my life. But then for further treatment I had to go out and continue my education there. But it was always my dream that I return to Pakistan. And I want to be able to move freely in the streets and meet and talk to people peacefully, without any fear. And [I hope that] it will be like my old home ─ just as it was.”
“So it’s actually heartening, and I am grateful to all of you,” she added.
Yousafzai described Pakistan’s future generations as “the biggest resources we have”.
“We need to invest in kids’ education. The Malala Fund is already working on this. We have invested more than $6 million on girls’ education in Pakistan, and we are continuing this work… I hope we can all join hands in this mission for the betterment of Pakistan, so that our future generation can receive the right education and women can become empowered, do jobs, stand on their own two feet and earn for themselves. That’s the future we want to see.”
“I still can’t believe I am here. perhaps if I spend more time here [it will sink in]… It is literally a dream,” she concluded.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi , who also addressed the gathering , said he is happy that a daughter of the nation has returned to her homeland.
“You were a 13-year-old girl when you left and now you are the most famous citizen of the country. The entire world gave you honour and respect and Pakistan will [also],” he said.
“It is your home. Now you are not an ordinary citizen, your security is our responsibility.”
“After your departure, we have fought a difficult war in which 6,500 soldiers, 25,000 policemen, paramilitary forces and civilians embraced martyrdom. Terrorism has been eliminated and still, we are fighting a war against terrorism. Set aside what the world says about us, Pakistan is fighting the largest war against terror. More than 200,000 soldiers are engaged in the war,” he said.
“Welcome home, Malala,” he concluded.
Yousafzai was targeted by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban in a gun attack in 2012 while she was on her way home in a school van after taking an exam.
She sustained a bullet injury to her head and was shifted from Pakistan to a hospital in Birmingham in a precarious condition. Two other girls also sustained gunshot wounds in the attack.
After her recovery, Yousafzai announced launching a movement for the promotion of girls’ education. She visited a number of countries as an official guest where she was warmly welcomed and given an official protocol and reception.
Pakistanis have welcomed Malala Yousafzai on her return to her homeland for the first time since she was shot in 2012 by Taliban militants.
Cricketer-turned opposition leader Imran Khan’s party PTI said that Malala’s return was a sign of the defeat of extremism in the country.
Marvi Memon, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, also welcomed Malala, saying it was a pleasant surprise for her to see Malala back home.