‘Historical ties’: A look back at past visits to Pakistan by British royals
“I feel at home in Karachi as we share the same culture and understand each other well” — Queen Elizabeth II, 1997.
Sameen Daud KhanUpdated about 5 hours ago
Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will arrive in Islamabad today (October 14) on a five-day visit, which aims to further improve ties between the two countries.
The Royal couple, according to British High Commissioner in Pakistan Thomas Drew, will visit the “breadth and depth” of Pakistan and as did their predecessors — William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II; his mother Princess Diana; and father Prince Charles — the couple hopes to meet as many Pakistanis as possible during the visit.
“I have always been struck by the warmth in Pakistan towards the royal family, and the fond memories of previous visits,” said Drew ahead of the couple’s arrival.
Here, Dawn.com takes a look back at the past visits to Pakistan by British royalty.
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.
Scenes from the first day of the Queen’s stay in Karachi, as seen in a Dawn edition dated February 2, 1961.
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.
Soon after their arrival in Peshawar on February 4, the couple flew to Quetta, which they were originally scheduled to visit after Karachi. The trip had been put off due to reports of heavy snowfall but was reconsidered once the weather cleared.
From the airport, the Queen and the Duke were driven to the Quetta Residency. The entire seven-mile route was decked in buntings with the Union Jack and Pakistan flag displayed at short intervals and 30,000 people waving at the royal visitors.
Once at the Residency, the Queen planted a pine sapling, the same place where her grandfather King George V had planted a chinar sapling, 56 years before her visit.
During their brief visit to the Balochistan capital — around six hours — the Queen and the Duke were also presented with two sheep each by Sardar Mohammad Khan Jogezai, a senior Pathan leader, and Sardar Khair Bux Khan Marri, a senior Baloch leader. The gesture was a long-held custom reflecting affection for distinguished guests.
The royal couple also visited the Quetta Staff College, where they had coffee with the students and officers in the college mess.
The Queen and the Duke then flew back to Peshawar that evening.
In Peshawar, the Queen and the Duke were invited to a banquet at the Government House by Malik Amir Mohammad Khan, the governor of then West Pakistan, which was attended by 80 prominent members of society.
The next morning the royal couple attended a church service at St John’s Church, the oldest in the region. The Queen, wearing a pink dress and matching hat, was welcomed by the Assistant Bishop of Lahore, the Vicar of Peshawar, and other clergymen.
During the service, the Duke read a lesson from the New Testament after which a sermon by the Assistant Bishop of Lahore was delivered.
The day after was described by Dawn as the busiest of the tour; it saw the Queen pay a visit to the Peshawar University, Khyber Pass, Pak-Afghan border point Torkham, and Landi Kotal.
On the way to Landi Kotal, the Queen stopped at some places to have a close look at the insignia of British regiment — inscribed on barren rocks by soldiers during their stay there.
She lunched at the mess of Khyber Rifles and later visited the multipurpose Warsak dam.
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.
1991: Princess Diana’s first visit
Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales, arrived in Pakistan on her first official solo tour on September 23, 1991. She was described by Andrew Morton, who wrote her biography, as having a lot riding on the four-day visit.
“Before she left I remember her saying how nervous she was, knowing that some courtiers inside the Palace were keen to see her fall flat on her face,” a report by Royal Central quoted him as saying.
During the course of her visit, she met and dined with then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had hosted a banquet in her honour at Prime Minister House.
She expressed hope that the close ties between Britain and Pakistan “will continue to flourish” and expressed happiness on behalf of Britain for Pakistan having joined the Commonwealth after an absence of 17 years.
Her engagements included a visit to a family welfare centre in the Noorpurshahan village adjacent to Islamabad, and a trip to the All Pakistan Women Association (APWA) complex. She also met 49 young scholars who had studied in Britain on scholarships funded by both British and Pakistan governments at a simple function held at Daman-i-Koh.
The Princess called on the then president, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, with whom she discussed matters of mutual interest. Later, he along with his wife hosted a dinner in her honour at the Aiwan-i-Sadar.
In a busy six-hour visit to Lahore, she visited the Kinnaird College straight from the airport, followed by a visit to the century-old King Edward Medical College. She also visited the Millat Tractor Factory, where she inaugurated a new assembly plant, the mazar of Allama Iqbal, Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort.
Her next stop was Chitral where she saw a programme of traditional folk dances, including the famous Kafir Kalash. She attended a reception hosted in her honour by the chief minister.
She also visited the Khyber Pass and interacted with members of the Khyber Rifles and the Chitral Scouts.
Later, she paid a visit to the Chitral Fort, where she met the former Mehtar (ruler), Prince Saiful Mulk Nasir, before returning to Islamabad.
1996: The ‘queen of hearts’ helps raise funds for Shaukat Khanum
The princess’s subsequent visit was from February 20-22, 1996, undertaken on Imran Khan’s invitation to help raise funds for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. Diana was accompanied by Lady Annabel Goldsmith, the mother of Khan’s wife at the time, Jemima Khan, and Jemima’s cousin Cosima Somerset.
She flew into Islamabad on the eve of February 20 aboard a private plane. She was received at the airport by Khan and Jemima.
That evening she had dinner at a restaurant in Lahore’s Gulberg area with Khan’s family and close friends.
The next day, Diana visited the hospital to oversee its facilities and engage with the doctors and patients there. She also attended an Eid Milan party at the hospital.
Of her time at the hospital, Dawn reported: “A variety show had been arranged at the Eid Milan party where children suffering from cancer presented comic skits, jokes and danced to the tunes of popular songs. Lady Diana showed a lot of affection and love for the children in distress.
“She took some children in her lap and sat caressing them. She also gave children sweetmeats and waved and smiled to those sitting at a distance from her. Later, she distributed gifts among them.”
She then visited a new departmental store in Lahore’s Gulberg area, before attending a fundraising dinner. The event was reported to have secured a hefty sum of Rs2.5 million.
According to Kensington Palace, her official residence, the visit was part of her continuing interest and concern for the sick and those neglected by society.
She remained a guest of Imran Khan’s during her stay. Owing to the personal nature of her visit, she did not attend any official function. She was, however, provided security by the government.
At the time, her visit sparked speculations that it was meant as a snub to the then prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, and her government for not giving enough time on air to Imran Khan.
However, a hospital statement issued said: “Lady Diana has agreed on a private visit to the hospital to meet children with cancer and lend her support to the charity. There’s absolutely no political aspect to her visit and the media attempt to create a scandal is both unfair and unwarranted.”
1997: Diana’s final visit
Lady Diana arrived in Pakistan on her third visit in May 1997 with the aim of launching an endowment fund appeal for Imran Khan’s cancer hospital and research centre.
She landed in Lahore on the morning of May 22, having travelled with Khan’s wife Jemima and their son Suleman Isa Khan. They were greeted at the airport by then Punjab education minister Chaudhry Mohammad Iqbal and Khan.
She was driven to Khan’s Zaman Park residence, where she stayed throughout her visit. That afternoon, a lunch was hosted by the hospital management where some 55 senior doctors and officials were in attendance.
The appeal was launched at a ceremony the next evening presided over by the chief minister of Punjab at the time, Shahbaz Sharif. The event was followed by a fundraising dinner.
Diana left for London the day after, in what marked her final and briefest visit to Pakistan. She died in a car crash in Paris just three months later.
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.
2006: Prince of Wales visits quake-hit Pakistan
Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla Parker, the Duchess of Cornwall, were the next British royals to tour Pakistan, from October 29-November 3 in 2006.
Upon their arrival at the Chaklala Airbase, the royal couple was welcomed by the then federal minister for women’s development and youth affairs, Sumaira Malik, along with Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK Dr Maleeha Lodhi, UK High Commissioner to Pakistan Mark Lyall Grant and other senior officials.
The two were driven straight to Punjab House where they were lodged during their stay in Islamabad.
The next day’s engagements included a meeting with then president Pervez Musharraf and his wife Sehba Musharraf at the presidency. The royal couple also met with the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz and his wife Rukhsana Aziz at the prime minister’s residence.
Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla also attended the launch of the Prince’s Youth Business International (YBI) scheme for Pakistan — which aimed to help disadvantaged young people in Pakistan become entrepreneurs — held at the prime minister’s residence. There, the couple interacted with some youth, saw local products and listened to pop songs in a performance by singers Hadiqa Kiani and Shehzad Roy.
As they went along viewing the exhibition stalls set up, the royal couple were presented with gifts including a chadar, a Chitrali wool cap and a model of a decorated truck.
“For my wife and I, it really is greatest possible joy to be here with you in Pakistan,” said the Prince on the occasion. “It has taken me very nearly 58 years to reach you and it’s not from want of trying, I can tell you.”
That evening, the couple attended a reception hosted by the British High Commissioner at the time, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, at the prime minister’s residence.
A visit to Peshawar due to take place the next day, October 31, was cancelled owing to security concerns following a blast in Bajaur.
The royal couple instead visited the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) in Rawalpindi where the Prince spoke about the urgent need to acknowledge the importance of understanding among faiths. “Religion does not teach us to harbour enmity amongst us,” he said at the time.
The two also visited the Taxila World Heritage Site.
The next day, on November 1, the two visited Patika, a village in Muzaffarabad struck by the earthquake that hit Pakistan the year before.
The Prince and the Duchess saw firsthand the reconstruction and aid work in progress in and around the town, being overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross and local authorities.
Hundreds of townsfolk rushed to welcome the royal couple as they walked through the bazaar.
They visited a bridge which was rebuilt with financial assistance by Britain. The couple also visited a government high school which had been destroyed by the quake and whose 103 students and three teachers had been killed.
Later, the two went to a veterinary hospital established by The Brooke, a charity based in the UK.
That evening, they attended a banquet hosted by Musharraf and his wife at the presidency.
The following day, the royal couple visited Lahore, where they laid a wreath at the tomb of Allama Iqbal and also went to the Badshahi Mosque. The royal couple then visited the Gurdwara of Arjan Dev and the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh where they talked to members of the Sikh community.
Later in the day, they went to the Lahore Cathedral where they met Anglican community members. They were also guests at a garden reception hosted by the city’s Bishop, Dr Alexander John Malik.
Dinner, that evening, was hosted by then prime minister Shaukat Aziz.
On the last day of their trip, November 3, the royal couple headed to Hunza, where they visited the Altit village to examine the development work being carried out by the Aga Khan Development Network.
“The main purpose of the visit was to explore avenues of involvement of the Prince of Wales Development Organisation in development activities in Northern Areas of Pakistan, especially in the field of preservation and restoration of historical buildings,” read a Dawn report from the time.
Accompanied by the Aga Khan — who recently hosted Prince William and Kate in London — Charles and Camilla also visited the Nangtsoq village in Skardu. There, they mingled with the village folk and expressed their interest in their traditional way of living.
They got the opportunity to visit several houses and engage with local people busy in their routine tasks.
The royal couple were informed about the civilisation, customs and culture of the people of Baltistan. They also sampled some food at a Balti food stall.
Special thanks DAWN NEWS