ISLAMABAD: Prince William and Kate Middleton met Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday as part of a landmark visit to the country.
Khan received the royal couple at his official residence in Islamabad shortly after they were greeted by Alvi and his wife.
“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,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said. “The prime minister apprised the royal couple of domestic priorities and Pakistan’s perspective on the external environment, including relations with India, and support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.
The prince thanked the government for its warm welcome and hospitality and described Pakistan as “a very important country for the UK.”
The country’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party tweeted about the meetings, branding the royal visit “historic.”
“Pakistan has come out of international isolation due to engaging foreign policy under PTI Government,” one post said. “The current foreign policy to engage with all countries have enabled Royal couple to visit Pakistan on their maiden trip, this is first Royal trip since 2006.”
The royal couple visited a government-run girls’ school to “champion the importance of quality education, particularly for girls,” the British High Commission in Islamabad said.
They met pupils of different ages and learned how they were benefiting from a fast-track teacher training program modeled on the UK’s successful “Teach First” scheme.
“49% of girls are out of school in Pakistan — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement at Islamabad Model College is championing the importance of quality education, and how girls benefit from pursuing higher education and professional careers,” said the official Twitter account for Kensington Palace.
The couple also visited Margalla Hills to take part in activities highlighting Pakistan’s work to meet sustainable development goals.
They joined children from four local schools to set up a leopard camera trap. “Environmental change and its impact is an increasingly serious issue in Pakistan, a country especially vulnerable to climate change. The Margalla Hills in particular face threats of encroachment, poaching, wildfires, invasive species and littering,” the British High Commission said.
Foreign policy experts called the royal trip an important moment for the country.
“The royal visit serves a symbolic purpose highlighting the historic ties between Britain and Pakistan as a member of the Commonwealth,” Rasul Bakhsh Rais, who teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, told Arab News.
“In the present context, the aim is to promote Pakistan’s positive image as a safe and secure country that is connected with the rest of the world community.”
He added that images of the visit would be splashed around the world, greatly contributing to the country’s image-building exercise.
Kate’s outfits, a demure blend of Pakistani silhouettes and Western tailoring, have already created a stir. She has been wearing pieces from firm favorite Catherine Walker and teeming them with accessories from Pakistani brands such as Satrangi and Zeen. Images of her and the prince, looking relaxed and happy, have been beamed around the world. For her meeting with the country’s leadership she wore green and white - the colors of Pakistan’s flag.
“The visit has certainly helped project a positive image of Pakistan. The high-profile visit of the royal couple will help remove the perception about Pakistan as being a dangerous country,” author Zahid Hussain told Arab News.
Pakistani authorities have deployed more than 1,000 security personnel to ensure the royal couple’s protection.
“The UK’s links with Pakistan are extensive, and TRH (Their Royal Highnesses) are looking forward to building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan,” the British High Commission said.
The ambitious and complex visit will span over 1,000 km, taking in Pakistan’s rich culture, diverse communities and stunning landscapes.