With tears in her eyes, Malala Yousafzai, who fled Pakistan in fear for her life six years ago, received a long overdue heroine's homecoming. She had, she confided recently, long dreamed of setting foot once again in her homeland. But home was where she was hunted down and shot in the head at the age of 14 by the Taliban for daring to blog about girls' rights to an education. She barely survived the attack on her school bus, thanks to the efforts of doctors in England, where she has lived for the past six years. In 2014 she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her work as an advocate for education has carried her to virtually all corners of the world – except her beloved homeland.
Yesterday, after more than half a decade away, she finally returned to a red carpet welcome. Pakistan's prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi received her at his home and said: "She has returned as the most prominent citizen of Pakistan"; cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan hailed her visit as a victory over terrorism. Ms Yousafzai, deeply moved by the experience, called it the "happiest day of my life". But the details of her visit – who will host her, where she will travel – are being tightly guarded to protect her. The Taliban, which still thirsts for her blood, is resurgent and there are too many extremists who still wish to do her harm for daring to be outspoken. The internet is crowded with conspiracists who hate the 20-year-old Oxford University student because they believe in earnest that she is an agent of western imperialism and a stooge of the CIA. What has led them down this path of ignorance and hatred is the absence of education, the very thing Ms Yousafzai risked her life to promote.
Ms Yousafzai’s Malala Fund is bringing education to children in Pakistan and although the threat from extremism remains, it is her vision that prevails. Nine months after being shot, Ms Yousafzai told the UN that “nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born”. Pakistan’s courageous daughter is on home turf and will hopefully one day get her wish to make it a permanent homecoming.