It was really a matter of pleasure and privilege for me to meet with the honorable royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Badshahi Masjid, Lahore. The interfaith dialogue organized by the British High Commission was a good step regarding coexistence of religions and interfaith harmony in the context of Pakistani society.
During our interaction, I expressed that all religions ask their followers to ensure respect for all other faiths. The majority of Pakistani people believe in tolerance, peace and humanity. However, there are some few elements that are creating problems for the local non-Muslim minority community. Similarly, I also highlighted the role of parliament in safeguarding the rights of minorities.
During our meeting, the empowerment of the youth was also discussed, so they can understand the importance of co-existence and establish cordial relations with other faiths.
The passionate way in which the royal couple is being welcomed in Pakistan truly reflects the cordial bilateral ties between Pakistan and the UK. For the last many days they are trending on Twitter. Similarly, the royal visit is making prominent news headlines in both electronic and print media.
The ongoing visit also resulted in many Pakistanis revisiting memories of Prince William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, who had visited Pakistan three times. During her first trip in 1991, she succeeded in winning the hearts of the Pakistani nation due to her unique style and kind nature. With a passion to serve humanity, Lady Diana again visited Pakistan after five years in 1996 and participated in a fund-raising event of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. Her last visit to Pakistan happened in the very next year in 1997, where she attended the inauguration ceremony of Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital. The sudden death of Lady Diana in a car accident also shocked the Pakistani nation.
Many elderly Pakistani citizens still remember the historical royal visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1961 during President Ayub’s era. It was the first visit of the royal family after the independence. On the occasion, President Ayub Khan was personally present at the Karachi Airport to welcome the royal couple. A large number of people were on the roads to greet the royal couple. The queen had also visited the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Queen Elizabeth scheduled her second visit to Pakistan in 1997, when the entire Pakistani nation was celebrating fifty years of independence. British Queen’s second visit to Pakistan delivered a strong message on the diplomatic front that the United Kingdom, while respecting the independence and sovereignty of Pakistan, loves to share the happiness of the people of Pakistan on the occasion of the country’s golden jubilee celebrations. The queen had also addressed a joint session of parliament.
Prince William’s father Prince Charles also visited Pakistan with his wife Camilla Parker in 2006. Now, after a gap of thirteen years the British royal’s family current visit to Pakistan is happening at such a critical time when Pakistan is facing different challenges on both internal and external fronts. At the one end, Pakistan is trying hard to meet the expectations of the FATF to avoid being blacklisted and on the other end, India’s aggression in Occupied Kashmir is becoming a big threat to regional stability and peace. In my view, the long-awaiting unresolved dispute of Kashmir is the incomplete agenda of the British government at the time of Partition that has now transformed into a human tragedy.
In such circumstances, the royal couple’s visit to Pakistan will obviously help highlight the positive image of Pakistan internationally. Pakistan is among those few countries that are blessed with natural beauty and kind-natured people. The photographs and visit details of royal couple in Islamabad, Chitral and the northern areas will result in attracting the attention of tourists and investors from all over the world.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.