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Malala Yousafzai Ending 1st Visit to Pakistan Since Shooting

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



    Malala Yousafzai Returns to Pakistan for the First Time

    Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist Malala Yousafzai returned to her native Pakistan for the first time since she was first shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for her advocacy work with educating girls. In a brief, tearful speech from Islamabad, Yousafzai said "I still can't believe that this is actually happening, that it's true. I have dreamt of coming back to my country for the past five years. Whenever I travel by plane, by car, I see the cities of London, New York. I was told "imagine you are in Pakistan," "you are traveling in Islamabad," "you are in Karachi." It was never true. But now I am in Pakistan. I am very happy." (Published Thursday, March 29, 2018)

    Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai left Pakistan on Monday, ending a surprise visit to the country, her first since being shot in 2012 by Taliban militants who tried to kill her for promoting girls' education.

    A smiling Yousafzai was seen with her parents at Benazir Bhutto International Airport before they boarded a plane to return to London after the four-day visit.

    Amid tight security, Yousafzai 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.

    After visiting Mingora on Saturday, Yousafzai in a tweet said 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," said, as she posted a picture of her, showing her standing at her home's lawn with her father, mother and brothers.

    Youzafzai also said in her hometown that she had waited for the moment for more than five years and said 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.

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    On Monday, Yousafzai'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."

    During her visit, Yousafzai also met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. She attended a reception at Abbasi's office and made an emotional speech in which she said it was one of the happiest days of her life to be back in her country.

    Most Pakistanis warmly welcomed Yousafzai's visit but some launched a campaign on social media against her and she also faced tough questions from journalists, asking about the campaign. She said she failed to understand why she was being subjected to this kind of criticism by educated people.

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    "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.

    Her hometown of Mingora is not far away from the village of Mullah Fazlullah, the head of Pakistani Taliban who dispatched attackers in 2012 to kill Yousafzai, at the time already a known teen activist for girls' education, but she miraculously survived a bullet wound to the head. Fazlullah had taken over Swat in 2007, marking the height of the militant's strength there.

    The Pakistani military later mostly evicted the militants from the valley and now Fazlullah is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan.

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    Since her attack and recovery, Yousafzai has led the Malala Fund, which helps students in Swat and elsewhere.

    Associated Press Writer Sherin Zada contributed to this report from Mingora, Pakistan