ISLAMABAD: Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton on Tuesday met Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi as they officially started the trip assuring the Pakistani leadership of the United Kingdom’s continued support in dealing with the challenges their country faces.

“You can rely on us to keep playing an important role as a key partner and your friend,” Prince William said at a reception hosted by the British High Commission for Pakistani business and political elite at the National Monument.

Assuring Pakistan of the UK’s continued support, he said the two countries “share unique bonds” and it was in Britain’s “best interest” to see Pakistan succeed. “I know that the UK and Pakistan will continue to exemplify the very best in international cooperation,” he said towards the end of his speech in which he spoke about Pakistan’s immense potential and the challenges it faces, especially those related to education, climate change, population growth and water scarcity.

“Delivering a future where Pakistan’s great potential can be realised will not be easy or without sacrifice,” he maintained.

UK royal couple dazzles Islamabad with Pakistani couture

Prince William lauded the sacrifices Pakistan has rendered in the fight against terrorism. “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 build the country that we see today,” he said.

The royal couple arrived here on Monday night on a five-day visit. This is their first visit to Pakistan. The royal visit to Pakistan from the United Kingdom is happening after 13 years. Prince William’s father Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla last came here in 2006.

The visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office, PM Khan, while talking to the royal couple, praised them for promoting ‘positive activities’ in Pakistan. He commended their efforts for raising awareness about modern day issues of climate change, inequality and education.

He also briefed them on his government’s domestic priorities and its perspective on external environment, including aggravating tensions with India and efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Mr Khan, in his conversation with the royal guests, touched upon his cricket career and his subsequent transition to a politician.

“When I went with my mother to see a Test match my cousin was playing and he scored a century and I told my mother I want to be a Test cricketer,” Mr Khan recalled according to Sky News. Similarly, talking about his political ambitions, he said: “I didn’t realise it would take me 22 years.”

It is said that Mr Khan in an earlier meeting with Prince William in 1996, when the latter was 11 years old, told him that he [Mr Khan] would one day become Pakistan’s prime minister. William then did take him seriously.

PM Khan spoke about Prince William’s mother Princess Diana’s popularity in Pakistan, because of her compassion as well as commitment to supporting charitable causes.

Mr Khan was a close friend of Princess Diana, who twice visited Pakistan, in 1996 and 1997. She also took part in fund raising for Shaukat Khanum Hospital.

The prime minister later hosted luncheon for the visiting couple.

The royal couple called on President Arif Alvi at Aiwan-i-Sadr, where Mr and Mrs Alvi welcomed them. President Alvi, too, commended the couple for their endeavours to raise awareness about mental health, climate change and poverty alleviation.

Cynosure of all eyes

The outfits of the royal couple, especially Kate, have been a major attraction on the first day of their visit.

Kate during a visit to a school and the Margallas wore periwinkle blue kurta and trousers with a dupatta. The dress had been designed by Maheen Khan.

Later, while visiting the Presidency and Prime Minister House, Kate chose an emerald green top by Catherine Walker with white pants and a patterned scarf.

Some of the accessories worn by Kate were also from local designers.

For the reception hosted by the British High Commission at the National Monument, where she arrived riding a colourfully decorated rickshaw, she used a dark green Jenny Packham dress.

Earlier, on her arrival at Nur Khan Airbase on Monday night, Kate wore ombré turquoise ensemble by Catherine Walker.

Prince William, who dressed himself in dark Western suits for the visits to the Presidency and PM House, outfitted in a sherwani by Naushemian for the reception.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2019