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Malala Yousafzai makes emotional first return to Pakistan since Taliban shooting

The Nobel Peace Prize winner said ‘I still can’t believe that this is happening’ and was welcomed by the country’s prime minister.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has made an emotional return to her native Pakistan for the first time since being shot in the head by Taliban militants in 2012 for speaking up for women’s education.

Within hours of touching down amid tight security on Thursday morning, Ms Yousafzai, 20, and her family were given a warm personal welcome home by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Her voice broke and she wiped her eyes during a brief tearful speech on national television, in which she switched between English and the Pashto and Urdu languages.

She said: “I am very happy and still can’t believe that this is happening.”

Ms Yousafzai, who now lives in the UK where she was airlifted for treatment, said: “Today is the happiest moment of my life. I always dreamt of returning to my country.”

In statements released by PTV World, which is part of the state broadcaster, she also said: “I still can’t believe that I have returned home.

“I have been through tough times from an early age. I saw women facing challenges in my society.

“I never wanted to leave my country but my doctors advised me to go abroad.”

She was guest of honour at a special ceremony at the prime minister’s office.

He tweeted: “We have fought hard to eradicate terrorism & we will continue to fight extremism & defeat it @Malala this is your home & we are glad you are home.”

The Pakistan Muslim League said that ministers Marriyum Aurangzeb and Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan plus politician Marvi Memon were at the meeting.

Ms Memon, who is the chairwoman of the Benazir Income Support Programme, tweeted “Welcome home @Malala” while minister Musadik Malik described her as a “homecoming queen”.

Pakistani television channel Geo TV had earlier aired footage showing Ms Yousafzai leaving Benazir Bhutto International Airport and getting into a car escorted by a security convoy.

Since being gunned down Ms Yousafzai, who is now studying at Oxford University, has become an international symbol for human rights and a powerful education rights campaigner.

Earlier this month she congratulated students on their first day at KKF Model School in Shangla – the school in Pakistan that was built with the help of her 2014 Nobel Peace Prize money.

She was just 15 when she was targeted by the Taliban for her outspoken campaigning over girls’ rights to an education.

Her career as an activist began in early 2009, when she started writing a blog for the BBC about her life under Taliban occupation and promoting education for girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

But her campaign angered local militants and she was shot during an assassination attempt while taking the bus to school.

She was treated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and, fearing reprisals in her native country, made the city her home.

In 2014 she became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and her campaign for children’s rights to education across the world has seen her address the United Nations on the issue.

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