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Malala visits Pakistan for the first time in six years

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Malala Yousafzai has come to visit Pakistan for the first time after six years. She arrived in Islamabad in the early hours of Thursday, 29th of March. Her visit was not announced earlier due to security concerns.

Details of her itinerary have not been released. However, officials of the Malala Foundation have also come to visit along with her. Reportedly, she will meet the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Thursday. The office of the PM has organized a ceremony to welcome her. She is set to discuss efforts to increase opportunities for education in less-developed areas in the country. She arrived at Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad and was escorted away under heavy security.

The security is perhaps necessary. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, in 2013, had vowed to attack her again, should they get the chance. She was shot in the head in 2012 by the TTP terrorists who saw her campaign for education as an effort to smear the militant group. The attack on her took place in her home town of Mingora in Swat while she was riding a bus from school to home. Two other girls were shot along with her.

The Malala Fund invests up to $10 million each year for supporting, training and scaling the work of campaigns for education across countries where girls do not have equal access to it yet.

Miraculously, she survived and went on to receive the Nobel Prize in 2014 for her activism for children’s right to education, the youngest person ever to receive the prestigious award. Malala was well-known around the world even before she earned the Nobel Peace Prize. She became an activist for the right to education for children in general and girls in particular at an early age. In 2008, when she was 11, she began blogging anonymously for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym “Gul Makai”.

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Her home town and the territory around it were under the control of the TTP during this time. Gul Makai is the name of a heroin in a local folk tale. It literally means “corn flower”.  According to folk lore, Gul Makai meets her lover, Musa Khan, in school. But their romance leads to fighting between their respective tribes. She, however, teaches her elders by interpreting the Quran that the war they are fighting is frivolous. The tribes learn from her and agree to stop the fighting and unite the couple in marriage.

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In her blog on the BBC, Malala wrote on Thursday, January the 15th in 2009, “My mother liked my pen name ‘Gul Makai’ and said to my father ‘why not change her name to Gul Makai?’ I also like the name because my real name means ‘grief stricken.” In the same entry in her diary, she also writes, “The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am.” On Saturday, the 3rd of January in the same year, she says,” I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat.” The next day, she wrote,” Today is a holiday and I woke up late, around 10 am. I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk (crossing).”

Malala Yousafzai has come to visit Pakistan for the first time after six years. She arrived in Islamabad in the early hours of Thursday, 29th of March. Her visit was not announced earlier due to security concerns.

In November of 2013, she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought by the European Parliament. In her speech at the EU parliament, she said, “A country with talented, skillful and educated people is the real superpower. Not the country with tons of soldiers and weapons.” In September of the same year, she was awarded the Children’s Peace Prize at The Hague in Holland.

At one occasion, she said, “I don’t care if I have to sit on the floor all the time. All I want is education.” In an appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart, she said that even if someone from the TTP came to kill her, she would first explain the importance of education to him and that she wanted education for his children a well. John Stewart then replied, “Would he [Malala’s father] be mad if I adopted you?” At age 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize and her name has become a symbol for the right to education for children worldwide.

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She has spoken at the United Nations and met with various leaders and dignitaries around the world. In October of 2013, she met with the then US President Barrack Obama. In her meeting with him, she explained how drone strikes actually contribute to creating more terrorists and the US needs to stop the drone program. The Malala Fund invests up to $10 million each year for supporting, training and scaling the work of campaigns for education across countries where girls do not have equal access to it yet. These countries include Nigeria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan along with five others. In January of this year, Malala donated $700,000 for construction of a school in Swat.

She became an activist for the right to education for children in general and girls in particular at an early age. In 2008, when she was 11, she began blogging anonymously for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym “Gul Makai”.

Her book “I am Malala” was published in 2015. The then Prime Minister of Pakistan praised Malala’s efforts for ensuring the right to education for children. “She is the pride of Pakistan. She has made her countrymen proud. Her achievement is unparallelled and unequalled,” he said. When she was shot, the government of Pakistan, to its credit, extended all possible support to the young activist. She was airlifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi near the Headquarters of the Pakistan Army where she was treated initially.

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She was then moved to the New Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. A titanium plate was fitted in her head to enable her sense of hearing. She has remained in England ever since. She got AAAs in her A-levels and secured an admission into Oxford for studying philosophy, politics and economy. This is the first time she has visited Pakistan since moving to Birmingham. She is going to stay in Pakistan till April the 2nd.


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