Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday, broke record after record as the British monarch, becoming an enduring symbol for the country over which she reigned for 70 years even as it changed beyond recognition, losing its empire and undergoing social upheaval.
The late monarch was widely respected the world over and Pakistan was among the countries she visited twice and also happened to good ties with almost all governments who have been in power since independence.
Here, Dawn.com takes a look back at the past visits to Pakistan by The Queen.
1961: The Queen’s first visit to erstwhile dominion
Queen Elizabeth, 34 at the time, undertook a royal tour of the far eastern countries in 1961, which included visits to Pakistan, India, Iran and Nepal.
Her state visit to Pakistan, which since 1956 had become a republic, lasted from February 1-16, during which she was accompanied by her husband, Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip, and visited Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore and the northern areas of the country.
When the royal couple landed in Karachi on February 1 at 11:37am, they were greeted at the airport with a warm handshake by the then president, Mohammad Ayub Khan.
A 20-minute ceremony followed, beginning with the boom of a 21-gun royal salute. The terminal was packed with spectators eager to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.
“The Queen was wearing a chartreuse dress belted at the waist, a feather hat to match, silver grey gloves and shoes, a three-string pearl necklace, and pearl earrings. She was carrying a silver grey bag and wore a diamond brooch on the left shoulder,” a Dawn report of the Queen’s arrival documented at the time.
The royal couple were then given a 100-man royal salute as they stood above a carpeted dias alongside president Ayub. A navy band also played the national anthems of both countries.
The two were driven from the airport to the President’s House and during the journey, they encountered cheers, music and flowers. The Queen, standing beside the president in a cream-coloured convertible Cadillac, smiled gracefully and waved back to the joyous crowds.
The royal couple stayed at the presidential residence until their departure to Peshawar on February 4.
Over the course of their stay, a number of engagements were held in Karachi in the couple’s honour.
According to a programme outlined by Dawn, the first day included a visit to the Quaid’s mausoleum, a visit by the Duke to Korangi Township, and a lavish state banquet by the president.
At the Mazar-i-Quaid, large crowds had gathered near the entrance and on both sides of the driveway. As the Queen approached it, white-clothed servants “quickly put on white shoe covers on the Queen’s shoes before she entered the small yellow painted room containing the Mazar”, reported Dawn. Once inside, the Queen laid a large floral wreath.
Meanwhile, the Duke surveyed the Korangi Township in a visit that spanned 50 minutes. He was shown around the colony, the health centre, primary school and market area.
“At the market, the Duke was attracted by an ordinary broom used in a Pakistani household and a ‘deg’. He picked up the broom and peeped into the ‘deg’,” a Dawn report said of the visit.
That evening, at the state banquet, the Queen described Pakistan as “one of the powers in the world of Islam”, and “one of the great nations in the Commonwealth”. Pakistan “thus finds herself in a unique position”, she said, expressing her faith that Pakistan’s “contribution to international understanding will increase from year to year”.
The next day’s events included a naval review at the Pakistan Navy Dockyard, a citizens’ reception at the Frere Hall Gardens, interaction with selected members of the press, and a dinner by the commonwealth high commissioners at Runnymede Road in Clifton.
At the Frere Hall reception attended by 5,000 cheering citizens on February 2, the Queen paid tribute to the city’s residents for having faced and solved so many problems with courage, recognising that many of the people were new to the city and had arrived with nothing but their hands to work.
“That Karachi survived this invasion, kept going, and finally absorbed it in such arduous and remarkable circumstances, is one of Pakistan’s most striking achievements,” she said.
She paused for a moment after the speech and then suddenly said: “Aap hazraat ka bahut bahut shukria.”
Her words in Urdu were met with a prolonged burst of applause by the crowd. Ayub stood up and clapped, laughing heartily.
Other activities the royal couple engaged in included a ladies reception, interaction with newsmen, a duck hunt (that saw Ayub dispensing with all formality with the Duke and bagging the majority number of ducks), and meetings with a delegation of Ismailis and a group of West Pakistan princes.
The royal couple enjoyed a weekend of festivities in Lahore as they attended a reception and a service at the Lahore Cathedral; took part in a fair; and visited the tomb of Allama Iqbal, the Lahore Fort, the Shalimar Gardens as well as the Badshahi Mosque. A grand dinner by the Army was also held in their honour.
There was even a “torchlit tattoo” performance by the West Pakistan Rangers as well as fireworks in the walled city. Prince Philip was also treated to a game of polo and the two took part in the national horse show, a nod to the Queen’s love for horses and the Duke’s interest in polo.
1997: Queen’s second visit coincides with Pakistan’s golden jubilee
The Queen next visited Pakistan 36 years later, when Sardar Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari was president and Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister, and the country was celebrating 50 years of independence.
This time, her visit was much shorter — six days — beginning on October 7. She was again accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip.
According to a royal press release at the time, the couple arrived at Chaklala, Islamabad, where a 21-gun salute was sounded as they emerged from the plane. The Queen and the Duke were received by the then foreign minister, Gohar Ayub Khan.
They were driven to the Aiwan-i-Sadar where they were welcomed by president Leghari and inspected a guard of honour.
At midday, she met prime minister Nawaz Sharif at his residence.
The Queen and the Duke that day visited the Shah Faisal Mosque. “During her visit, the Queen kept her hat covered with an off-white dupatta as a sign of respect while going round it,” wrote Dawn.
She also opened a new commercial block at the British High Commission, “a manifestation of the desire of the British government to further promote its commercial and economic relations with Pakistan”, according to the Queen’s Press Secretary, Geoffrey Crawford, who briefed Pakistani and foreign newsmen a day in advance of their arrival.
Later in the day, the royal couple attended a reception for media representatives at the High Commission.
That evening, the president hosted a royal banquet at the Presidential Palace for the Queen and the Duke. An investiture ceremony was also held during which the Queen was conferred the highest civil award, Nishan-i-Pakistan, and the Duke was awarded the Nishan-i-Imtiaz.
“The Nishan-i-Pakistan has been given in recognition of Queen Elizabeth’s outstanding contribution to the consolidation of linkages between Pakistan and Britain and her commitment to the causes confronting the developing countries of the Commonwealth,” reported Dawn at the time.
Leghari and Sharif were also awarded in turn with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG), respectively.
It was observed at the time that the banquet had provided a rare opportunity for political rivals to sit together. Benazir Bhutto, whose government had been dismissed, also turned up as it was she who had as premier extended the invitation to the Queen to visit Pakistan.
Speaking at the banquet, Queen Elizabeth said Pakistan and the United Kingdom enjoyed a truly rich relationship, founded on a myriad of personal as well as institutional commitments. “I am confident in its future, and wish Pakistan well in its next fifty years.”
She also paid tribute to Princess Diana’s humanitarian work during her visits to Pakistan and thanked the people for their sympathetic response to her death.
The highlight of the visit came the following day, when Queen Elizabeth addressed a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate.
What is more interesting, in the backdrop of current tensions between India and Pakistan, is that the Queen at the time had called for renewed efforts between the two countries to end “historical disagreements”. She had stressed that with the lifting of barriers between the two largest nations of the sub-continent, the region’s real potential would unleash.
“It brings friends of both countries only pleasure to see the commitment both have made this year to solve contentious issues through talks. Reconciliation will take time but the effort must be made,” the Queen said in her address to the joint session of parliament.
The royal couple, the same day, also opened a British Council exhibition “Traditions of Respect” (on the influence of Islam in the West) at the Convention Centre in Islamabad. They gave a luncheon at the British High Commissioner’s residence and spent the afternoon visiting the Rawalpindi Cricket Club, where they met the Pakistani and South African Test teams and watched part of the match, according to the Court Circular issued at the time.
Part of their activities also included meeting war veterans, laying a wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, attending a reception in the gardens of the British High Commissioner’s residence, and watching “Beat Retreat by the Royal Marine Band”.
Over the course of their visit, the royal couple also visited Karachi where they attended a reception at the Governor House, followed by a lunch hosted by the governor of Sindh. The Queen inaugurated a British Trade Exhibition at a local hotel and the Duke opened a $450 million ICI plant at Port Bin Qasim.
“I feel at home in Karachi as we share the same culture and understand each other well,” the Queen said.
After the laying of wreaths at the Quaid’s mausoleum, the two departed for Lahore, where they were hosted by prime minister Sharif, who gave a grand banquet in their honour at the Lahore Fort.
The next day, the Queen visited the National College of Arts in Lahore where she saw the miniature art studio and sculpture studio. The NCA students also put on a string puppet show on the occasion.
The Queen paid a visit to the Kim’s Gun monument after which the Bishop of Raiwind received her at Christ Church school of Pakistan.
A luncheon in her honour was hosted by the Punjab governor. She also paid a visit to the British Council where she met with people from different walks of life.
The Queen and the Duke then flew back to Islamabad. Before their visit to Pakistan concluded, the Duke was pictured visiting Aga Khan school in Chitral’s Bilphok area.
The article was originally published in 2019.
Header image: Queen Elizabeth waved to the crowds as she rode in a convertible through the streets of Karachi in 1961. — AFP