Secrecy over Malala's itinerary in Pakistan homecoming

Ms Malala Yousafzai’s schedule is shrouded in secrecy amid security fears.
Ms Malala Yousafzai’s schedule is shrouded in secrecy amid security fears.

ISLAMABAD •Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai's whereabouts in Pakistan were being kept secret yesterday, one day after her emotional return home more than five years after being shot by a Taleban gunman.

The 20-year-old, whose arrival in the country dominated headlines and social media, broke down in tears as she delivered an emotional televised speech on Thursday, saying it was a "dream" to be home.

But with intense criticism among the many messages of welcome, her itinerary was being kept under wraps, with even those meeting her not being told of her presence until the last moment.

Ms Malala is widely respected internationally as an icon for girls' education, but opinion is divided in Pakistan, where some conservatives view her as a Western agent on a mission to shame her country.

"Pakistan has not done well by its heroes," an editorial in the English-language Dawn newspaper on Ms Malala's homecoming said yesterday, noting that the country's other Nobel laureate - physicist Abdus Salam - had been widely shunned for being a member of the persecuted Ahmadi minority.

Women's rights activist Nighat Dad said she and a group of other feminists from across Pakistan who were gathered on Thursday were not told they would be meeting Ms Malala until the last moment. The organiser, director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, only told them that "it'll be the highlight of your year", Ms Dad said, adding that she had been right.

Ms Malala's schedule yesterday was not clear, though there was some speculation she would return to her native Swat, where she was shot and where, earlier this month, a school built with her Nobel prize money was opened.

 

In 2012, a gunman boarded her school van, asked "Who is Malala?" and shot her. The Pakistani Taleban accused her of "anti-Islamic" activities and of "smearing" it in statements after the attack.

She was treated for her injuries in the British city of Birmingham, where she also completed her schooling.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2018, with the headline 'Secrecy over Malala's itinerary in Pakistan homecoming'. Print Edition | Subscribe