Malala Yousafzai’s father has revealed that she is skipping her honeymoon so that she can spend the first few days of her married life on the sofa watching cricket with her new husband.
Malala, 24, shocked millions of her supporters around the world by announcing that she had got married to Pakistani cricket executive Asser Malik, 31, in a small, moving ceremony at her Birmingham home.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai revealed that only 12 guests were invited to the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s big day.
Malala, who captured hearts around the world after she was shot in the face by Taliban gunmen for continuing to go to school nine years ago, was joined by her two siblings and parents for the Nikkah – Islamic wedding ceremony.
Others in attendance were Asser’s mother, sister, her husband and their two children plus three of Malala’s closest friends.
The newlyweds are putting their honeymoon on hold for now to stay in London to watch Pakistan take on Australia in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup, which takes place in Dubai on Thursday.
Mr Yousafzai beamed: ‘We are delighted for Malala and Asser but like so many Pakistanis, they are cricket mad.
‘On Thursday, we will all be watching Pakistan in the semi-final and that includes Malala and Asser, even though they have just got married. They will be at home in front of the television closely following the game. It’s a huge match and none of us want to miss it. We are all praying for a Pakistan victory.’
He added that Malala and Asser had not ruled out the possibility of travelling to Dubai if the team makes it to the final of Sunday’s T20 World Cup.
Mr Yousafzai said: ‘There are no definite plans but if Pakistan do get to the final then it would not surprise me if Malala and Asser go to Dubai to watch it. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the semi-final first.’
The newlyweds cutting the wedding cake shown in a photograph posted by Asser Malik
Malala, in a beautiful pink bridal outfit, and her new husband gaze into each others eyes in the stunning photos from their Nikkah: ‘Today marks a precious day in my life. Asser and I tied the knot to be partners for life,’ she wrote
Malala adjusts her hair and looks on as Asser Malik signs the marriage register at their wedding in Birmingham
Malala and her new husband Asser Malik pose for a picture on their wedding day with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai and mother Toor Pekai Yousafzai.
Recalling his daughter’s wedding ceremony, he added: ‘It was a very simple affair which was arranged at the last minute. We didn’t want to hire a big venue and invite hundreds of people but I’m sure we will hold a large party at some stage in the future.
‘We have known about Malala and Asser for over a year but initially, there was no talk about them getting married. It’s a wonderful day for the whole family and we are very happy for both of them.’
Sources in Pakistan revealed that some of Malala’s relatives visited Asser’s family in Lahore to finalise arrangements for their marriage.
They also said that Malala and Asser initially met through cricket and often attended matches together during his trips to the UK. As the two became closer, he also started visiting her family in Birmingham more frequently.
It has not been finalised where the couple will live but for the time being, Asser is expected to return to Pakistan to resume his work at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) while Malala will remain in the UK to focus on running her foundation, which aims to promote girls’ education around the world.
Asser is General Manager of High Performance for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the governing body of the sport in the country and oversees the implementation of top-level sports programmes for its best players and coaches.
He also spearheads the drive to spread women’s cricket in Pakistan, which is how he and Malala, a passionate advocate of women and girls’ cricket, are first believed to have met.
Last year Malala revealed that she played the sport while studying at Oxford, attending the university cricket club as well as playing for her college, and in July she spoke of sexism she had experienced in the sport growing up.
Asser has been working at the PCB since 2020 and previously was operational manager for the Multan Sultans, a professional cricket team which plays in Pakistan’s annual T20 competition, known as the Pakistan Super League.
He is closely connected to some of the biggest names in Pakistan cricket and previously was managing director of a player management agency and is a former executive for Coca-Cola.
His social media posts are littered with pictures of him at major cricket matches around the world, highlighting his passion for the sport.
Asser attended school at the prestigious Aitchison College in Lahore, where former cricketer and the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also studied along with some of the other biggest names in the country.
He has two older sisters and comes from a wealthy family which divides its time between London and Lahore. Asser is a regular visitor to the UK and on his Twitter profile describes himself as a Newcastle United fan.
Malala, who is the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, spoke of her excitement for the ‘journey ahead’ after tying the knot with Pakistani cricket coach Asser Malik in a relationship that had been kept secret from the wider world.
Malala shared sweet photographs from the Nikkah – Islamic marriage ceremony – where she wore a beautiful pink bridal outfit.
Malala and Asser Malik pictured with friends in June 2019, watching the England versus Pakistan cricket game at Edgbaston.
It is not known when Malala and Asser began their relationship, but her husband posted this photograph from her birthday in July
She is seen smiling next to her new husband, who wore a matching pink tie, in adorable outdoor snaps. While another image shows Malala touching her hair as Asser signed the marriage contract.
Malala captioned the photographs: ‘Today marks a precious day in my life. Asser and I tied the knot to be partners for life.
‘We celebrated a small nikkah ceremony at home in Birmingham with our families. Please send us your prayers. We are excited to walk together for the journey ahead.’
Malala has previously been ambivalent around marriage, telling a Vogue interviewer in July: ‘I still don’t understand why people have to get married.’
Asser Malik: The sports manager who married a Nobel Prize winner
Asser Malik is a rising talent in Pakistan’s cricket world and works as a high performance manager of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
His LinkedIn profile states that he joined PCB in May 2020 and he has shared several photos from various cricketing events on his Instagram page.
Asser Malik also had held a high-ranking role in an amateur league that revitalized Pakistani interest in cricket.
He was a managing director of a player-management agency and franchise owner in the amateur league Last Man Stand, according to ESPN cricinfo.
Before starting his career in sports coaching and management he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
He frequently tweets about the progress of Pakistan’s under 18s cricket teams and his belief that ‘sports are more than just competition’.
‘I’m looking forward to the day again where Pakistan ranks with the best at the Olympic Games,’ he tweeted.
Malala and Asser’s relationship had been kept secret from the wider world. The only hint of the blossoming romance came in July when Asser posted a birthday message to his future wife which read ‘Happy Birthday to the most amazing Malala’ alongside a photograph of the couple standing next to each other.
It is unknown how long Malala and Mr Malik have been dating but in June 2019, they were pictured together with a group of friends watching England play Pakistan at Edgbaston.
Mr Malik also runs an amateur league franchise called Last Man Stands in Pakistan, which he has described as an attempt to ‘revive grassroots cricket in Pakistan in an organised and structured way’.
He graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2012 with a degree in economics and political science.
Other roles listed on his LinkedIn page include 16 months working at Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Limited, and 14 months as a managing director at a player management agency.
In the run up to the surprise wedding, he has been seemingly preoccupied on Twitter with the progress of the Pakistan cricket team which has reached the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup being played in the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier this year, Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai said he would allow her to choose her own partner.
Her parents had what has been described as an ‘an arranged love marriage’.
Malala has previously expressed doubts about whether she would ever marry. In June she told Vogue: ‘I still don’t understand why people have to get married. If you want to have a person in your life, why do you have to sign marriage papers, why can’t it just be a partnership?’
At the age of 15 Malala survived being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman after campaigning for girls to be educated. She has since become a global icon for women’s rights.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline nine months ago, Mr Yousafzai, 51, said his daughter was fully independent and should create the life she wants.
He said: ‘In our community, when a girl reaches 23, she is usually married by now and has little say in the matter.
‘To me, tribe or caste does not matter at all. I think the most important thing is that this is her (Malala’s) life. I’m the kind of father who believes in their children’s education and freedom.
‘She has the right to choose her own partner or nobody at all, it’s up to her.’
Having lived in the UK since she was shot in 2012, she has graduated from Oxford, rubbed shoulders with the world’s leading politicians and celebrities and set up a foundation focused on girls’ education.
Malala recovering in a hospital bed after being transferred from Pakistan to the UK after being shot by the Taliban nine years ago
Mr Yousafazi (with his wife and three children), who often had to go into hiding because of death threats from the Taliban
Having lived in the UK since she was shot in 2012, she has graduated from Oxford, rubbed shoulders with the world’s leading politicians and celebrities and set up a foundation focused on girls’ education
Her family are Pashtuns, a fiercely traditional and patriarchal community from the mountainous region of Pakistan who are known for arranging marriages for girls at a young age and are reluctant to educate them.
Mr Yousafazi said: ‘I have left these issues up to Malala. She’s very independent. I will be comfortable with anyone that she is happy with.
‘The only thing I would say is that she should go for someone who respects her values, her freedom and her independence. She would be a better judge of that than me, I believe in her wisdom.’
Malala was shot at point blank range in the side of the head as she sat on school bus after defying the Taliban by continuing to go to school.
Miraculously, she survived and was rushed to Britain for medical treatment, and continued with her extraordinary work. It culminated with Malala becoming the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2014, at just 17.
Her passionate beliefs on female equality were shaped by Mr Yousafazi, a former teacher who publicly spoke out against the Taliban and their attempts to close girls’ schools, even before she was shot by them.
Mr Yousafazi admitted his beliefs are ‘extremely rare’ in the Pashtun community and that even when he was in Pakistan, he would rail against forced marriages and stress the importance of girls’ education.
As Malala herself has previously noted on her birth: ‘Welcoming a baby girl is not always cause for celebration in Pakistan – but my father Ziauddin Yousafzai, was determined to give me every opportunity a boy would have.’
The family lived in the mountainous Swat district, which at the time of Malala’s shooting, had been infiltrated by the Taliban.
Mr Yousfaafazi, who often had to go into hiding because of death threats from the extremists, added: ‘I would tell parents that the best thing they could do for their daughters is to put a pen in their hands and get them to study and that what the Taliban were doing was not true Islam.’
Malala graduated from Oxford University but then deferred her place at Harvard to focus on running the Malala Fund with her father, an organisation she established that works across the world to implement girls’ education programmes.
But Mr Yousafazi revealed that in between overseeing the work of the Malala fund, she has spent lockdown home schooling her mother, Toor Pekai, 49, who is attending online English classes.
She has also been helping her youngest brother Atal, 17 with his homework. Malala also has another brother, Kushal, 21, who is studying at a university in London.
Mr Yousafazi added: ‘Like so many other British people, Malala has been doing a lot of home schooling and has been helping her mother every day with her English course and Atal with his studies, when he asks her.
‘But unlike many people, she has really enjoyed home schooling. Malala loves education and is one of the most committed and dedicated students I have ever met and that’s what also make her such an excellent teacher.’