LAHORE: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan arrived in Lahore via the Wagah border on an official visit on Wednesday, with the message that many Indians wanted good relations with Pakistan.
This is the first time a mayor of London has visited Lahore. Mr Khan is on a six-day mission to India and Pakistan to strengthen cultural and economic ties with the British capital. He had earlier stayed in India for three days where he met politicians and other important personages in Mumbai, Delhi and Amritsar.
Accompanied by a delegation of investors and officials, London’s mayor was received warmly at the Wagah border by Mayor of Lahore retired Col Mubashar Javed and senior officials of the Punjab government.
Earlier in the day, while visiting the Golden Temple at Amritsar in India, Mr Khan called on the British government on Wednesday to make a formal apology for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which nearly 400 people were shot dead by British Indian army soldiers. He called the massacre one of the most horrific events in Indian history. “It is wrong that successive British governments have fallen short of delivering a formal apology to the families of those who were killed,” he said.
Mr Khan later called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the latter’s Model Town residence and attended a luncheon there. British High Commissioner Thomas Drew was also present on the occasion. The delegation included London’s Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal, Turkish Consul General Serder Deniz and US Consul General Elizabeth Kennedy.
Calls for UK apology over Jallianwala Bagh massacre
Prior to Mr Khan’s arrival in the city, CM Sharif had tweeted: “We welcome Mayor Sadiq Khan from the historic city of London to the historic city of Lahore.” Mr Khan had a one-on-one meeting with the chief minister and later visited the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort, before attending a dialogue at Alhamra.
According to a spokesperson for the Punjab government, Mr Sharif said that Pakistan accorded great importance to its relations with the UK. A large number of Pakistanis were settled in London, playing an important role in enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, he said, adding that promoting cordial relations between the UK and Punjab was the need of the hour.
The chief minister was quoted as saying that Pakistan had achieved great success in its war on terrorism, and would win it by introducing various socio-economic reforms. The government, in collaboration with the Department for International Development of the UK, had already introduced far-reaching reforms in education, healthcare and skills development sectors. “We appreciate the cooperation of British people,” he said.
Earlier while meeting CM Sharif, the delegation of British investors had expressed interest in investing in projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The chief minister said that the CPEC had opened new avenues of foreign investment in Pakistan and British investors should fully avail the opportunity.
Mr Khan said that the cities of London and Lahore enjoyed good relations and expressed the desire to enhance cooperation and investment with Lahore in various sectors.
Speaking at a dinner reception given by the mayor of Lahore, Mr Khan said he was impressed by the hospitality of the people of Lahore. He was happy to note that Pakistan and its society were progressing. “I am happy to know that Pakistan’s economy is growing,” he said, while thanking the mayor for according him a warm welcome. “I found Lahore as I had heard of it. It is the heart of Pakistan and is certainly the hub of Pakistani culture,” he said.
Lahore’s mayor thanked Mr Khan for visiting and shared that he wished to strengthen social and cultural ties with London.
Gifts were exchanged — owner of Peshawar Zalmi Javaid Afridi presented Mr Khan Shahid Afridi’s cricket bat, cap and shirt. Mr Khan was scheduled to leave for Islamabad after the reception, and to later visit Karachi.
Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2017