Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in 2012 by Taliban militants angered at her championing of education for girls.
Tight security greeted the now-20-year-old university student upon her arrival at Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport.
Local television showed her with her parents in the lounge at the airport before leaving in a convoy of nearly 15 vehicles, many of them occupied by heavily armed police.
Hours after her arrival, Ms Yousafzai met with Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, according to a government statement.
Her return had been shrouded in secrecy and it wasn’t immediately clear how long she would be in the city or whether she planned to travel to her hometown of Swat where the shooting occurred.
As news broke about Ms Yousafzai’s arrival in Pakistan, her countrymen welcomed her.
On this day, I cherish fond memories of home, of playing cricket on rooftops and singing the national anthem in school. Happy Pakistan Day! 🇵🇰❤️
— Malala (@Malala) March 23, 2018
Cricketer turned opposition leader Imran Khan’s party said Ms Yousafzai’s return was a sign of the defeat of extremism in the country.
Javeria Khan, a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Ms Yousafzai’s hometown, said she was excited about Ms Yousafzai’s return.
“I wish I could see her in Swat. I wish she had come here, but we welcome her,” she said, as she sat among schoolchildren.
Ms Yousafzai was just 14 years old but already known for her activism when Taliban gunman boarded the school van in which she was sitting and demanded to know “who is Malala?” before shooting her in the head.
Two of her classmates were also injured. In critical condition, Ms Yousafzai was flown to the garrison city of Rawalpindi before being airlifted to Birmingham in Britain.
She has since spoken at the United Nations, mesmerising the world with her eloquence and her unrelenting commitment to the promotion of girls’ education through the Malala Fund, a book, meetings with refugees and other activism.
She was awarded the Nobel in 2014, along with Indian child-rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, and said on the day she collected the prize that “education is one of the blessings of life, and one of its necessities”.
She remained in Britain after undergoing medical treatment there and was accepted to the University of Oxford last year.
At home in Pakistan, however, she has been condemned by some as a Western mouthpiece with some even suggesting on social media that the shooting was staged.
Often when she has spoken in public she has championed her home country and spoken in her native Pashto language, always promising to return to her home.