As Malala Yousafzai spoke of coming home to Pakistan for the first time since being shot by the Taleban five years ago, the emotions flooded back — and so did the tears.

The 20-year-old Nobel laureate returned on Thursday for a four-day visit. She told an audience in the Prime Minister's office of how she had longed to be back in Islamabad or Karachi even as she promoted her message of girls' education around the world.

"I was always dreaming for the past five years, that I can come to my country, whenever I was travelling abroad," she said, to applause. "Finally, I am here."

As the reality hit home for Yousafzai, her usually self-assured composure vanished. Her lip quivered and she cupped her hands over her face to hide the tears. But the grit that has come to define Yousafzai soon returned. She took a deep breath, wiped the tears and resumed speaking.

Advertisement

Secrecy surrounded her arrival as well as details of her visit, which is expected to last until Monday.

In October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taleban assassin who had jumped inside her school van and yelled, "Who is Malala?" She had been targeted for speaking out on education in her home of Mingora in the Swat Valley.

Since her attack and recovery, Yousafzai has led the Malala Fund, which she said has invested US$6 million ($8.3m) in schools and to provide books and uniforms for schoolchildren. In 2014 she became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi praised Yousafzai for her sacrifices and activism. He said he was happy to welcome her home, where he said "terrorism has been eliminated" — a line often repeated by Islamabad despite persistent militant attacks in the country.

- AP