x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Malala to visit and thank UAE leaders for help

Malala Yousafzai, the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, plans to visit UAE leaders to express her gratitude when she fully recovers next year.

ABU DHABI // The Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban last month will visit the UAE capital to express her gratitude when she is discharged from hospital.

Malala Yousafzai, 14, who is being treated in the UK, is expected to be fully recovered by mid-February next year.

The Pakistani ambassador to the UAE, Jamil Ahmed Khan, said yesterday at a tribute event at the embassy that Malala was recovering very quickly due to her "willpower and determination".

Mr Khan said she often went to the patient gymnasium at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, and asked the nursing staff to play cricket with her.

He was addressing a group of Pakistani students at the event, which also included a tribute to Namira Salim, the woman set to become Pakistan's first astronaut, who lives in Dubai.

"Pakistan is represented by the people like Ms Malala and Ms Salim, and they are the pride and inspiration for the entire nation," Mr Khan said.

Malala was shot in the head by Taliban militants on her school bus on October 9 due to her vocal support of girls' rights to education.

Six days after the shooting, in her home town of Mingora in the Swat Valley, the UAE Government provided the air ambulance that took Malala from Pakistan to the UK for treatment.

Her medical care is being paid for by the Pakistani government.

"We challenge those extremists who are trying to disturb the peace of nation and the world. These extremists will be defeated again and they never can win," said Mr Khan.

He said Malala is planning to visit the UAE to thank Sheikh Khalifa, the President, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

She will then travel to the Holy City of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah before travelling back to Pakistan, Mr Khan said.

Sania Jeelani, 17, a student from Sheikh Khalifa Pakistani School in Abu Dhabi, said Malala was a symbol of inspiration and strength.

"No cowardly act can change our will and determination, and voice of freedom and peace raised by Malala," Sania told the audience, speaking on behalf of students.

Ms Salim, the first Pakistani to have reached the North and South Poles, was chosen to be among the first on the maiden flight of the world's first commercial spaceliner, owned by Virgin Galactic, scheduled for next year.

Ms Salim, who has lived in the Emirates for 30 years, hoped her achievements could be an inspiration for Pakistani women and the UAE. She told the students to pursue their dreams.

"If I can do it, everybody can," she said.

anwar@thenational.ae