Malala Yousafzai, the women’s education activist and youngest ever Nobel Prize Winner, said yesterday that she plans to return permanently to Pakistan after finishing her studies in Britain.
Ms Yousafzai, who is known across the world simply as ‘Malala’, was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012 while she was campaigning for female education in the Swat Valley.
In her first visit to the country since the attack, she yesterday told Pakistani media that she plans to return to the country in two years – after finishing her course in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University.
“My plan is to return to Pakistan as this is my country,” she said.
“The Pakistani government and military have helped me in visiting my home country. I will return to Pakistan permanently after completing my education.”
She described herself as “completely focusing on education” at Oxford, but said that she wanted “to work for the education of children and make it possible for every girl in Pakistan to receive a high-level education, to fulfil her dreams and become a part of society”.
While in Pakistan, Ms Yousafzai hopes to visit her home town in the Swat Valley, around 160 miles (250km) from the capital, Islamabad.
It was there, in 2012, that a Taliban gunman singled her out on the bus she rode to school, and shot her in the head.
Yesterday Ms Yousafzai, now 20, acknowledged the work of the Pakistani military in saving her life.
"My treatment here was by Army doctors, and if they had not done my surgery in time I would not be here today," she said.
After leaving Pakistan, she founded her own not-for-profit educational fund, the Malala Fund. She continued to write and campaign, and in 2013 co-authored her biography, I Am Malala.
In 2014, she became the youngest-ever recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize
Sources close to Ms Yousafzai’s family yesterday told The Daily Telegraph that she had discussed with them her plans to move back to Pakistan, but had not yet decided what she would do upon her return.
She told the media that she had missed “everything about Pakistan” while she had been studying in Britain.
“Right from the rivers, the mountains, to even the dirty streets and the garbage around our house, and my friends and how we used to have gossip and talk about our school life, to how we used to fight with our neighbours,” she said.
Aside from her educational commitments, she said that security concerns had prevented her from returning before now.
A student who also attends Ms Yousafzai’s Oxford college, Lady Margaret Hall, said yesterday that while studying she had plain clothes security detail with her at all times.
Before beginning her degree at Oxford, she studied at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham.
While many in Pakistan welcomed her return, others were more critical of her reforming stance and accused her of promoting her own, non-Islamic, values.
A group of private schools in Pakistan declared Friday to be "I Am Not Malala Day", for what its spokesman described as her "anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan ideology".
Responding to her critics, she said: "I am proud of my religion, and I am proud of my country."
"I just don’t know anything I’ve said that makes me anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam."