Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate left for home yesterday after wrapping up a visit to Pakistan, the first by members of the British royal family in over a decade.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were seen off from a military airbase in the capital Islamabad by the British high commissioner to Pakistan, officials said.
The couple flew home hours after a delayed arrival from Lahore.
Their plane had to return to Lahore overnight due to a storm.
Pakistan’s aviation authorities advised the pilot to return to Lahore after two failed landing attempts at an airport and the military airbase, officials said.
The couple spent the night at a luxury hotel in Lahore along with journalists covering their trip and staff of the British high commission.
The incident forced changes in the tightly scheduled itinerary of the royal couple, said an official at the high commission, which is in charge of Britain’s diplomatic relations in countries that are members of the Commonwealth.
A planned visit to a Pakistani military post in the Khyber region yesterday morning was cancelled because of the change in their schedule, but the prince said learning about the security situation in the country was an objective of the visit.
“What happens here in Pakistan directly correlates to what happens on the streets of the UK,” William told British media after he and Kate saw dogs that are trained to sniff out explosives. “We are involved with the Pakistanis for a very good reason, it will actually keep people safe back in the UK.”
During their visit, William and Kate had lunch with the Pakistani prime minister and met the president.
In Lahore they saw a 17th-century mosque, participated in birthday celebrations of children at an orphanage, and spent time with cancer patients at a hospital.
They visited the country’s northern mountains to see glaciers melting due to climate change and meet communities affected by impact.
William and Kate also travelled to meet an ancient community thought to be the descendants of soldiers who came to the region with Greek king Alexander the Great.
The Kelasha people have lived in a valley near the Afghan border for more than two thousand years, keeping their unique culture and heritage alive.
One of the highlights of the visit was their arrival at a cultural evening event in Islamabad in a three-wheeler rickshaw dressed in traditional Pakistani clothing.
Among the most memorable visits of members of Britain’s royals to Pakistan were three trips by William’s late mother Princess Diana, who is still admired in Pakistan for her beauty and elegance.
Pakistan’s government hopes the couple’s four-day visit will help boost the country’s image as a tourist and business destination, after decades of sectarian violence and political unrest.
On Friday, a global money-laundering watchdog gave Pakistan until February to improve its counter-terror financing operations in line with an internationally agreed action plan, or face action (see lead story).
“In terms of Pakistan’s positive international image, the visit has been an unmitigated success,” said Rifat Hussain, analyst and a former professor at Quaid-e-Azam university in Islamabad, though he added that there had been some complaints from Pakistanis about the huge security operation around the trip.
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