Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday returned to her native Pakistan to meet flood victims, 10 years after a Taliban assassination attempt against her.
Her visit — only the second since she was flown to Britain for life-saving treatment — comes as thousands of people protest in her hometown, where the same militant group is once again on the rise.
Yousafzai was just 15 years old when the Pakistani Taliban — an independent group that shares a common ideology with the Afghan Taliban — shot her in the head over her campaign for girls’ education.
Visit aims to remind world of need
On Tuesday, two days after the 10th anniversary of the attack, she landed in Karachi, from where she will travel to areas devastated by unprecedented monsoon flooding.
Her visit aims “to help keep international attention focused on the impact of floods in Pakistan and reinforce the need for critical humanitarian aid,” her organization, Malala Fund, said in a statement.
Catastrophic flooding put a third of Pakistan under water, displaced 8 million people, and caused an estimated $28 billion in damages.
Yousafzai grew up in the town of Mingora in the deeply conservative Swat Valley, close to the border with Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), waged a years-long insurgency there that ended with a major military crackdown in 2014.
But there has been a resurgence in unrest since the Afghan Taliban returned to power in Kabul last year.
The TTP has claimed dozens of attacks in recent weeks, mostly against security forces and anti-Taliban elders.
“We are tired and can no longer carry dead bodies,” said Muhammad Ali Shah, the former mayor of Swat.
“It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and provide them with security, but the government’s silence on all these incidents is criminal.”
More than 5,000 people blocked a main road through Mingora, sparked by the latest attack on a school bus on Monday, in which the driver was killed and a 10- or 11-year-old boy was wounded.
The TTP has denied responsibility, and the police said they are investigating the motive.
Students and teachers walked out of schools — including the school attended by Yousafzai that her father established — to call for peace.
“Our protest will continue until the arrest of the killers. We will not rise from here until the top government officials assure us of justice and an end to militancy,” said Dr. Amjad Ali.