MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malaya Yousafzai's hometown in Pakistan often recalls memories of the daughter of the scenic northwestern Swat Valley who survived a weapons attack – as well as memories of the Taliban's harsh rule.
Yousafzai is when she first visited Pakistan after the Pakistani Taliban – now on the run, but still able to carry out attacks – her 2012 fight for education for girls and the opposition against Islamist militancy shot into the head.
It was not clear late on Friday whether Yousafzai could return to the Swat Valley for safety reasons, but many are eagerly awaiting her.
"We are very happy that Malala came to Pakistan and we welcome Malala," said Arfa Akhtar, a third-grade student in a school where Yousafzai once studied. "I am also Malala, I am with Malala in this mission."
Barkat Ali, 66, relates that he remembers holding Malala in his lap when she was a child in Mingora. He is proud of the 20-year-old's struggle to promote the education of girls, as well as his refusal to deliver his son 10 years ago when the Taliban demanded new fighters.
"They were the old illiterates who would say that our daughters will not go to school," Ali said, recalling two mortar shells that landed in his street and were often guarded by the Taliban.
"Now people have become rational, they train their girls."
The Pakistani Taliban took over much of the valley in 2007. They banned girls' education, killed people, beat up women and hung dead bodies of electric batons to enforce their harsh interpretation of Islamic law before the Pakistani army expelled them in 2009.