Pakistanis welcome Malala home, but visit shrouded in security

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PV International desk : Malala Yousafzai’s whereabouts in Pakistan were being kept a tightly-guarded secret Friday, one day after her emotional return more than five years after being shot by Taliban gunmen.

The Nobel laureate, whose arrival in the country dominated headlines and social media, broke down in tears as she delivered an emotional televised speech 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 over security fears, with even those meeting her not being told of her presence until the last moment.

Malala is widely respected internationally as a global 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 Malala’s homecoming said Friday, noting that the country’s other Nobel laureate — physicist Abdus Salaam — had been widely shunned for being a member of the persecuted Ahmadi minority.

Women’s rights activist Nighat Dad said that she and a group of other feminists from across Pakistan who were gathered on Thursday were not told they would be meeting Malala until the last moment.

The organiser, Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, only told them “It’ll be the highlight of your year,” Dad said — adding that she had been right.

Malala’s schedule for Friday 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.

Malala became a global symbol for human rights after a gunman boarded her school van on October 9, 2012, asked “Who is Malala?” and shot her.

The Pakistani Taliban accused her of “anti-Islamic” activities and of “smearing” the militant group in statements released after the attack.