Royal sojourn: Struck by strides Pakistan made since independence, says Prince William

Published: October 15, 2019
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Britain's Prince William makes a speech as he attends a special reception with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, hosted by the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, at the Pakistan National Monument in Islamabad. PHOTO: REUTERS

Britain's Prince William makes a speech as he attends a special reception with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, hosted by the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew, at the Pakistan National Monument in Islamabad. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Britain’s Prince William said the United Kingdom and Pakistan share “unique bonds” in a speech at the National Monument in Islamabad on Tuesday evening during a five-day visit to the nation with his wife Kate.

Prince William spoke of the warm welcome and delicious food they had experienced in Pakistan after arriving on Monday evening and visiting local school children and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The UK and Pakistan share unique bonds and so it will always be in our best interests for you to succeed,” William said at the event hosted by the British High Commission, adding that 1.5 million people living in the UK had Pakistani heritage and the UK was one of Pakistan’s top investors. “You can rely on us to keep playing an important role as a key partner and your friend.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at the hilltop monument in a rickshaw painted with the Pakistani and UK flags.

Prince William wore a teal sherwani suit, a long dresscoat worn over trousers, while the Duchess of Cambridge wore a dress by British designer Jenny Packham in deep green, the colour of Pakistan’s flag.

Foreign policy experts and officials have said the trip, the first by a British royal family member in more than a decade and made at the request of the British foreign office, represented a soft power push, which may help both sides further their diplomatic aims.

William also mentioned the looming challenge of climate change to Pakistan, as well as the importance of women having access to education, two themes of a trip which has been described by palace officials as the most complex the couple have undertaken due to security issues.

“For a country so young, Pakistan has endured many hardships, with countless lives lost to terror and hatred. Tonight I want to pay tribute to all those who have endured such sacrifice and helped to build the country that we see today,” he said.

“Whether in Pakistan or the UK or elsewhere on our planet – we face shared global challenges. The effects of climate change threaten the present and the future – and therefore demand a concerted effort by everyone.”

Earlier in the day the couple met PM Imran at his official residence, and President Arif Alvi at the Presidential Palace.

William’s mother Princess Diana, a hugely popular figure in Pakistan, visited Pakistan several times in the 1990s and helped Imran raise money for a cancer hospital.

“While welcoming the royal couple, Prime Minister Imran Khan recalled the love and affection among the people of Pakistan for Princess Diana, because of her compassion as well as commitment to support charitable causes,” Khan’s office said in a statement.

He had also brought up geopolitical issues such as India’s decision to revoke the autonomy of occupied Kashmir in August and attempts to secure peace in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Earlier William and Kate met students at an Islamabad Model College for Girls, discussing education with a group of older students and visiting the classrooms of younger students, admiring their drawings.

As they left, a group of girls sang one of Pakistan’s national songs and the couple greeted kindergartners who had lined up to chant “bye bye”.

While visiting the school a 14-year-old student told William she and other students were “big fans” of Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997.

“Oh that’s very sweet of you. I was a big fan of my mother too,” he replied.

They then visited the Margalla Hills National Park on the edge of Islamabad, which is under threat from poaching, wildfires, invasive species and littering.

For the morning events, Kate wore a periwinkle blue silk shalwar kameez, the national outfit of Pakistan consisting of a loose tunic worn over trousers.

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