- British media reports of the royal couple following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana and Prince Charles to visit the South Asian country have highlighted security risks
- But excitement is building in Pakistan, with observers saying it underscores the importance of bilateral ties
Britain’s Foreign Office has a warning on its website advising against travel to multiple areas in Pakistan, noting threats such as “terrorism, kidnapping and sectarian violence throughout the country, including the cities of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi”.
’s first visit to Pakistan in 13 years, following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth and William’s parents, Princess Diana and Prince Charles.
No further details were released but media reports said the couple’s three children would not accompany them on the trip.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, described the announcement as “exciting news”, saying it reflected the importance Britain attaches to Pakistan.
“For Pakistan, it would serve as a much-needed boost [during a time] when a neighbour has unnecessarily been attempting to isolate it from its long-standing friends and allies,” he said.
According to Wajid, security was a big factor in explaining why it has taken 13 years for another royal visit to happen.
“If there was no royal visit since 1997, it was entirely due to security concerns. After the military operation in 2014 [where armed forces took on militants], now things have improved,” Wajid said.
“British Airways has resumed its flights [from London to Islamabad], and security concerns over diplomatic postings have been upgraded. Pakistan is now considered as a safe station,” he said.
Last month, British Airways became the only Western airline to serve Pakistan, after it pulled out of the country 10 years ago when a terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad killed at least 54 people, including three British citizens.
Still, top precautions by the security agencies on both sides would no doubt be taken to keep the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge safe, Wajid said.
Mustansar Abbas Klasra, an Islamabad-based defence and security analyst, said the timing of the trip suggested Britain was confident in how the armed forces had quelled militant operations.
“The royal couple would feel safe and comfortable here,” he said.
The royal visit had its own significance in relations, Wajid said.
Relations between Pakistan and the Commonwealth have experienced some ebbs and flows since the former gained independence from Britain in 1947 during the partition of India.
Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 withdrew from the Commonwealth after Britain recognised the new state of Bangladesh.
The country rejoined as a member in 1989 at the Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Kuala Lumpur attended by then prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar.
After a five-year suspension following General Pervez Musharraf’s military coup, Pakistan resumed Commonwealth membership in 2004.
The two cricket nations have long-standing cultural ties – Pakistan’s current prime minister Imran Khan studied at Oxford University, as did former leader Benazir. Britain has one of the largest overseas Pakistani populations, with some 1.4 million people, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is of Pakistani descent.
“During 2008, our ties with Britain were extraordinary. Nearly half the Tory government ministers had been contemporaries of Benazir Bhutto at the University of Oxford,” Wajid said.
“On the 10th anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s death in 2017, then British prime minister Theresa May said in a speech at the United Nations what a great loss to humanity her loss was. She also acknowledged that it was Benazir Bhutto who match-made her with her husband.”
Wajid said many Pakistanis remember previous royal visits.
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip first visited Pakistan in 1961, and then again in 1997 during Pakistan’s 50th year of independence, while Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, visited the South Asian nation several times as part of her charity work.
According to public records from Pakistan’s National Library in Islamabad, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their first visit in February 1961 arrived in Karachi, formerly Pakistan’s capital city, where they rode in an open-top vehicle and were cheered by thousands.
One of the royals’ first stops was the Jinnah Mausoleum, where the tomb of Pakistan’s first governor-general after independence, the London-trained barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah, rests.
In Karachi, the royals attended a banquet at Government House, with the queen wearing Queen Alexandra’s famous Kokoshnik tiara.
The royals also travelled to Peshawar, where they visited the iconic Khyber Pass, a mountain pass that was an integral part of the ancient Silk Road.
In October 2006, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived to a red-carpet welcome in Islamabad, the capital.
During their five-day visit, they spent time in areas ravaged by the 2005 earthquake.
The couple also visited Lahore and Gilgit-Baltistan, a northern province located in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.