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'Happiest Day' As Malala Makes Emotional Return To Pakistan


A Pakistani shopkeeper listens to Malala Yousafzai addressing a reception in Islamabad on March 29.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot by Taliban militants in 2012, shedding tears of joy and vowing to keep campaigning for the education of girls.

"It's the happiest day of my life. I still can't believe it's happening," Malala said on March 29 after flying in to Islamabad with her father and younger brother and meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

"I don't normally cry," Malala said, wiping away tears. "I'm still 20 years old but I've seen so many things in life."

Malala was 15 when she was shot in the head on her school bus in the Swat Valley by Taliban gunmen because she campaigned for the education of girls, which the militant extremist group opposes.

She was taken to England for treatment and has remained there, enrolling at Oxford University in August 2017 and resumed her fight for the cause that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

"For the betterment of Pakistan, it is necessary to educate girls and empower women," Malala said.

She said the Malala Fund, which she leads, has invested $6 million in schools and to provide books and uniforms for schoolchildren.

Security was tight as Malala arrived at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport on a flight from Britain and then left in a convoy of nearly 15 vehicles, many of them occupied by heavily armed police.

Pakistani officials said earlier that Malala was scheduled to discuss the prospects of promoting education in less-developed areas of the country with Pakistani authorities. They said the details of her trip had been kept secret for security reasons.

Malala first came into the spotlight as a schoolgirl, when she started writing a diary of her life under Taliban rule in her hometown of Swat.

Malala strongly advocated education through her diary, which was written under the pseudonym "Gul Mukai" and featured on BBC Urdu.

The trip is expected to last four days. It was not clear whether Malala and her family would visit Swat during their visit, something that would require extraordinary security clearance measures, officials said.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, AP, Dawn.com, and The Express Tribune

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