London: Britain’s Prince William and wife Kate Middleton will make their first official visit to Pakistan later this year, more than 13 years after the last royal visit to the country, Kensington Palace announced.
The visit is expected between September and November and according to some UK media reports, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is expected to undergo hostile environment training before the week-long trip in view of the terror threat in the region.
The details of the tour are yet to be unveiled but the palace confirmed that the visit is being undertaken on the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will undertake an official visit to Pakistan this autumn, at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Further details will be advised in due course,” Kensington Palace said in a Twitter statement on Saturday.
William and Kate, both 37, are expected to travel to Pakistani capital of Islamabad and also to Lahore, Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar as well as some rural communities across the country. Their young children, Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 1, are expected to remain in the UK.
“The upcoming royal visit is a reflection of the importance the UK attaches to its relations with Pakistan. The two countries enjoy historical links which both sides wish to strengthen further,” said Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, the High Commissioner for Pakistan to the UK.
“The people of Pakistan still cherish and fondly recall the visits of Her Majesty The Queen to Pakistan during 1961 and 1997,” he said.
William and Kate’s tour of Pakistan, which is a member of the Commonwealth, comes more than 13 years after the last royal visit to Pakistan, when William’s father Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, travelled to the country in 2006.
William’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, made the journey several times through her charity work.
The couple will meet Pakistan’s president, Arif Alvi, and Prime Minister Imran Khan, a close friend of Princess Diana, who had visited the former cricketer turned politician and his then wife, Jemima Khan, in Lahore in April 1996 and again in May 1997, shortly before her death, to help raise funds for a cancer centre Khan built in Lahore. William and Kate may also visit the centre.
The FCO travel advisory on its website warns that “terrorists are very likely to try and carry out attacks in Pakistan”.
“Foreigners, in particular westerners, may be directly targeted,” it notes.
“Pakistan is a very important country in a fragile part of the world,” The Times quoted a government source as saying.
“The royal visit will be an acknowledgment both of the significant Pakistani community living in the UK and the increasing commercial opportunities that are opening up there,” the source added. – PTI