On Saturday morning, Ms. Yousafzai, accompanied by her parents, two brothers and Pakistani Minister of State Marriyum Aurangzeb, flew from the capital Islamabad to a government helicopter in the Swat Valley. They briefly visited the rental house in Mingora, where the family once lived, and were warmly welcomed by the new residents. Ms. Yousafzai cried as she entered the house.
"So much fun seeing my family at home, visiting friends and getting back on this floor," she said in a Twitter post with a photo of her family in the small garden of her old house. She also took pictures of the scenic Swat Valley from the helicopter as it approached Mingora.
Urooj, a former schoolmate and neighbor who just named her first name, said that Ms. Yousafzai left her friends with mixed feelings] Photo
Abdul Majeed / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
"It was a moment of joy and sadness," she said, "because she came to visit but went too."
Ms. Yousafzai also visited a local hotel and college near Mingora.
"My first visit to the Swat Valley after five and a half years since the attack," she wrote in the guestbook of the school, where she also wrote a short speech report. "I felt so happy, I'm proud of my country and my culture."
Swat was once a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, which was ruled by terror, public executions and suicide bombers against security forces. The fighters and their leader, Mullah Fazlullah, were driven out of the area in 2009 following a fierce military campaign, and the valley has since returned to a more normal life.
But the security situation is still far from ideal, local residents say. The military has a large presence in the region, and residents have protested in recent months against the cumbersome security checks and barriers. The secrecy surrounding the visit was proof of the continuing dangers in Swat. There was a strong security presence in Mingora when Yousafzai's friends and family members met and a military helicopter hovered over them.
But for the residents and Ms. Yousafzai, the fact remains that the Taliban are no longer visible and schools remain open. There was enough certainty that peace had returned to the region.
During her visit, Ms. Yousafzai praised the Pakistani army for driving the Taliban out of Swat and providing them with medical care.
Although she enjoys worldwide recognition and recognition, Ms. Yousafzai is still seen by many Pakistani conservative society in a critical light, and some portray her as a Western stooge. On Friday in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore and several other cities, a private school association observed "I'm not Malala day," with schoolchildren and teachers holding posters against them.
Yousafzai brushed off the criticism and said she could not understand why people turned against her when she just wanted girls to get education, careers, and a better life. She says that she plans to return to Pakistan after completing her education in the UK and to continue to work for girls' education and women empowerment.
Yousafzai plans to return to the UK on Monday.
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