Prince William, Kate Middleton arrive in Pakistan to a warm welcome

ISLAMABAD: Prince William and Kate Middleton received a warm welcome as they touched down in Rawalpindi.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at Rawalpindi’s Nur Khan Air Base and were given a warm welcome by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Britain’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew along with other members of the foreign office.

As per sources, the royal couple were given a red-carpet welcome at the airbase and will also be presented with a guard of honour.

The two are also scheduled to meet with President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan on October 15 and will also be visiting Islamabad’s Women’s College and attending a charity event, later in the day.

The royal pair will arrive in Lahore on October 16 where they will be expected to visit SOS Village, Aitchison College, Shaukhat Khanam Memorial Hospital, Badshahi Mosque, Minar-e-Pakistan and National Cricket Academy.

On October 17, the couple will head towards Chitral where they are expected to interact with locals and visit the Khyber Fort before they head back to the federal capital at night.

On their last day of the five-day visit, Kate and William will be visiting the Faisal Mosque before their departure on the afternoon of October 18.

The royal pair arrive on a historic tour, making it the first of its kind since the past 13 years in Pakistan.

The 37-year-old British Prince, William, and his wife, Catherine (Kate) Elizabeth Middleton, known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge respectively, are due to arrive in Islamabad along with with their three children on an official visit, which is expected to repair Pakistan’s international image a great deal.

A few days ago, prestigious British newspaper “Telegraph” had reported that the royal couple’s visit would dispel Pakistan’s image as a terrorist haven blighted by violence. The trip will be the first of its kind undertaken by any member of the British royal family in 13 years.

In 2006, William’s father Charles (the Prince of Wales) and the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles, had travelled to Pakistan to visit the areas devastated by the October 8, 2005 earthquake.

The other royal visits to Pakistan include two undertaken by Prince William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth (in 1961 and again in 1997), and three by his late mother, Princess Diana (1991, 1996 and 1997) In 1961, Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, had embarked upon on a seven-week tour of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Iran.

In its February 13, 1961 edition, the “Guardian” newspaper maintained that Pakistan had staged a torchlight tattoo and fireworks as the Queen and Prince Philip were treated to a full weekend of entertainment.

The British media house had added: “Into the blackness of the huge stadium a set piece of firework display burst into light to open the tattoo: 500 men in white uniforms, each bearing two flaming torches, marched, counter-marched, moved in intricate formations, and built up patterns and shapes so that at one moment the darkness was alight with flaming centipedes and the next with blazing birthday cakes. Lahore has certainly provided a full weekend for the Queen and Prince Philip, and both the Queen’s love for horses and her husband’s interest in polo have been remembered.”

Remember, during her October 1997 trip to Pakistan, the Queen had used an address to the parliament in Islamabad to call on Pakistan and India to settle their differences. Newspaper archives reveal that the Queen, who had not been Queen of Pakistan since 1956, and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, were welcomed in Islamabad by the-then Pakistani President, Farooq Leghari.

The British monarch had visited the Faisal Mosque on the same day. In the evening, the Pakistani President had hosted a banquet for the Queen at the Presidency, where she gave a speech in which she had lauded her daughter-in-law Princess Diana’s humanitarian work in Pakistan and expressed her gratitude to the Pakistanis for sharing Britain’s grief of the recent tragic death of Diana.

On October 8, 1997, another eminent British newspaper, the “Independent” had reported: “Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, she visited the grand Faisal Mosque and, in keeping with Islamic traditions, she draped a scarf over her head and took off her shoes before entering the white marble building. The royal visit marks the 50th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence from Britain. The Queen will stay in the country for six days – visiting Karachi and the resort area of Murree, where the British elite went to escape the sweltering summers during British rule – before heading to India. Today, she will meet Premier Nawaz Sharif and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, an event which has created considerable controversy as relations between the two adversaries are at an all-time low.”

As far as Lady Diana’s three visits to Pakistan are concerned, she had first arrived in 1991 and this was her first official solo tour. She took on a range of engagements during the busy tour, ranging from a girls school and family welfare centre in Islamabad and the Badshahi Mosque and the Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, to the Khyber Rifles and the Chitral Scouts on a visit to the Northwest Frontier.

This is what her bodyguard at the time, Ken Wharfe, had written in his book: “The headlines screamed that Diana had taken Pakistan by storm, that her visit had been a resounding success. The tabloids predictably hailed her vociferously as the jewel in the royal family’s crown, one of them claiming, employing a typically lame pun, that she was “All the Raj.” The Princess could barely contain her elation. As far as she was concerned, she had arrived as a public figure on the world stage.”

During her 1996 tour, Diana had made a private two-day visit to Lahore to see her friend and incumbent Pakistani Premier, Imran Khan, and his then-wife, Jemima Goldsmith.

By 1996, Prince Charles and Lady Diana had parted ways. Diana visited Lahore to help raise money to create the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, which was being built by Imran Khan and spent her trip visiting sick children and attending fundraising events.

In May 1997, Diana made what would be her final visit to Pakistan, officially opening the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital with Imran Khan. The Princess visited the hospital and remained with the patients.

She had also attended a dinner at the Lahore Fort during her visit.

Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton will undertake an official visit to Pakistan from October 14 (today) to October 18 (Friday), at the request of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

This will be their Royal Highnesses’ first official visit to Pakistan, a UK government statement said.

According to the statement made by Communications Secretary on Royal visit to Pakistan, the Communications Secretary to Queen Donal McCabe said their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will undertake an official visit to Pakistan between Monday 14th and Friday 18th October, at the request of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This will be Their Royal Highnesses’ first official visit to Pakistan, he remarked.

According to the statement, whilst the Duke and Duchess’ programme will pay respect to the historical relationship between Britain and Pakistan, it will largely focus on showcasing Pakistan as it is today a dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking nation.

It added that from the modern leafy capital Islamabad to the vibrant city of Lahore, the mountainous countryside in the North, and the rugged border regions to the West, the visit will span over 1000km, and will take in Pakistan’s rich culture, its diverse communities, and its beautiful landscapes. Throughout the tour, Their Royal Highnesses will visit programmes which empower young people, and organisations that help ensure they have the best possible start in life. Access to quality education, particularly to girls and young women is one of the UK’s top priorities in Pakistan.

The statement further said that Duke and Duchess are looking forward to spending time meeting young Pakistanis and hearing more about their aspirations for the future. Their Royal Highnesses’ programme will also cover how communities in Pakistan are rapidly responding and adapting to the effects of climate change. This a key area of interest for Their Royal Highnesses; they are keen to learn more about the climate change issues affecting Pakistan and our world, and the positive work being undertaken to combat these challenges.

The official statement further said that Their Royal Highnesses will also learn more about the challenges and opportunities, both of the past and today.

The UK has been a key partner for Pakistan, and The Duke and Duchess will meet UK and Pakistan military personnel who are sharing expertise to improve security.

As with previous overseas visits, The Duke and Duchess have asked that this tour allow them opportunities to meet as many Pakistanis as possible.

Over the course of the visit, their Royal Highnesses will meet a wide variety of people, including children and young people, leaders from government, business and the charity sector, inspiring conservationists, and well-known cultural figures and sporting stars.