Malala Yousafzai and Asser Malik — meet the world’s newest power couple

·6-min read

Watch: Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala gets married

Don’t pretend you didn’t Google him immediately. Pictures of Malala Yousafzai’s glorious autumn wedding emerged on Instagram last week - and the first question on everyone’s lips was, who’s that guy? 

Followed by: How long have they been together? And what changed the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s mind, after she revealed her skepticism about marriage this summer? “I still don’t understand why people have to get married,” Yousafzai, 24, told Vogue in July. 

The activist told her 2.1 million followers she’d “tied the knot” with partner Asser Malik during a small Islamic ceremony in Birmingham, calling it a “precious day” in her life and since telling the Andrew Marr Show they have a similar same sense of humour. He’s a Pakistani cricketer who is believed to be in his early thirties. “Please send us your prayers. We are excited to walk together for the journey ahead.” 

So who is the hunky cricketer who’s stolen Yousafzai’s heart and how long have they been together?

 (Malin Fezehai via Reuters)
(Malin Fezehai via Reuters)

A shared sporting passion

Yousafzai is known for her activism efforts but she and Malik share a sporting passion. In her Instagram bio, the 24-year-old calls herself a “girls’ education advocate, @malalafund co-founder, cricket fan” and by the looks of his grid, this third hobby offers a clue as to how she and her husband met. 

According to LinkedIn, Malik is a general manager in high performance at the Pakistan Cricket Board, the country’s cricket governing body. He’s been working there since May 2020, having previously worked as an operational manager at amateur Pakistan Super League franchise Multan Sultans. 

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. 

But clearly cricket is Malik’s top sporting passion. He’s previously worked in operations for Grassroots Cricket in Lahore and his Instagram is an archive of cricketing highlights over the years, from posing with mascots in his first post in April 2019 to trips to the US Cricket Open and Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. 

According to recent posts, his famous friends include former England cricketer Gareth Batty, now a coach in Surrey, and Pakistani cricketer Ali Shafiq. 

His new wife Yousafzai has also been a cricket fan since childhood. Last year the activist revealed 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’d experienced in the sport growing up. 

“As a girl, I loved to play cricket with my friends and brothers. But I noticed that boys would throw a slower ball to me, assuming girls were afraid to hit a fast ball,” she wrote on Instagram, adding that she would always shout back at the boys and tell them to throw the ball as though she were a boy. 

She says the sport taught her to be bold, competitive and resilient - features that have certainly played a key role in her battle for girls’ education and equality. 

Secret beginnings

Naturally, fans have been quick to speculate about where Yousafzai and her husband met. Did their families introduce them? Did they cross paths at university

The Nobel Prize laureate graduated from her PPE degree at Oxford University last year, while Malik graduated in economics and political science from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan in 2012. 

With degrees eight years apart and on different continents, the pair are unlikely to have met at university - but they certainly share similar academic interests. 

Social media suggests it was more likely to have been cricket that brought the pair together. The first public photo of the couple was posted by Malik in June 2019, as part of a group photo at Lord’s Cricket Ground. “Best day at @homeofcricket,” he captioned the picture on Instagram, tagging three accounts including Yousafzai’s. Perhaps the pair were introduced through mutual cricket friends.

Three days later, Malik shared a second Instagram featuring Yousafzai, this time a group selfie taken at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham, her home city. “Rooting for Pakistan,” he captioned the picture, tagging the activist alongside three other friends. 

Malik’s posts since then - mostly cricket-themed - failed to feature his new activist wife, until their wedding pictures appeared this week. Were the pair dating in secret since that summer meeting in 2019? 

Either way, the secret is finally out. Photos of the pair holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes were posted on both of their Instagram grids last week, with Yousafzai posting a long caption tagging the official wedding photographer and makeup artist, and Malik keeping his simple with a heart emoji. 

Malik’s most recent posts before the wedding snap were shared in March: both smiling solo shots captioned “weekend happiness”. Eagle-eyed fans might have spotted the congratulatory messages from followers in the comments underneath - was this the weekend he and Yousafzai got engaged? 

A change of heart

Yousafzai told Vogue earlier this summer that she didn’t understand why people had to get married, but this week she explained that her new husband helped her to change her mind. “I was not against marriage, I had concerns about marriage and that is true for many girls around the world who have seen reports about child marriage and reports about forced marriage,” she told The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, referencing unequal marriages where “women make more compromises than men”. 

“A lot of these customs are influenced by patriarchy and misogyny,” she added. “So you have to question the systems that we are living in and we have to question the status quo but I am lucky that I found a person who understands my values. He understands my sense of humour and we have a lot in common.”

The activist also explained her change of heart in Vogue last week. “I wasn’t against marriage, but I was cautious about its practice,” she wrote. “I questioned the patriarchal roots of the institution, the compromises women are expected to make after the wedding, and how laws regarding relationships are influenced by cultural norms and misogyny in many corners of the world. I feared losing my humanity, my independence, my womanhood – my solution was to avoid getting married at all.”

Since then, talking about the issue has helped, says Yousafzai. “My conversations with my friends, mentors and my now partner Asser helped me consider how I could have a relationship – a marriage – and remain true to my values of equality, fairness and integrity.” 

As she continues to champion women’s rights in her professional life, hopefully the 24-year-old’s own gender-balanced love story will inspire thousands of girls and young women to strive for the same. 

Watch: 'I had concerns about marriage', says Malala Yousafzai

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