ISLAMABAD (AP) — Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate kicked off a five-day tour of Pakistan on Tuesday, amid much fanfare and tight security.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with the country’s President Arif Alvi, as well as the Prime Minister Imran Khan. The couple was scheduled to attend a cultural event later in the day.
Authorities deployed more than 1,000 police and paramilitary forces to ensure the royal entourage’s protection, setting up checkpoints and roadblocks in parts of the capital, Islamabad.
Alvi and his wife welcomed the royal couple, releasing a statement saying the president “commended” them for raising “awareness about mental health, climate change, and poverty alleviation.”
Prince William thanked the president for his warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his entourage, the statement added.
The royals were accompanied by British ambassador Thomas Drew, the Duke’s private secretary Simon Case, and Christian Jones, Communications Secretary to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, according to a government statement.
The royal couple’s first engagements were visiting a school for girls in the capital earlier on Tuesday, followed by a tour of the nearby national park at Margalla hills.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are strong advocates of girls’ education, were greeted by teachers and children on their arrival at the Model College for Girls.
Wearing a royal blue traditional kurta and trouser, Kate sat with children in a classroom, as Prince William shook hands with a teacher.
According to the United Nations annual Human Development report, most Pakistani girls will drop out after primary school and on average go to school for seven years. Barely 27% of girls in Pakistan attend secondary school, the report said, compared to nearly 50% among boys.
Taliban militants in Pakistan violently oppose girls’ education and shot Malala Yousafzai — now a leading girls’ education global activist who attends Oxford University in Great Britain.
Militants in recent years have damaged girls’ schools in the northwest, including the Swat Valley which is the home of Yousafzai.
The royal couple arrived in Islamabad Monday night.
William’s mother, Princess Diana, visited Pakistan in the 1990s to participate in a fund-raising event for a cancer hospital built by Khan, who took office last year. Diana died in a car accident in 1997 and many Pakistanis still remember her for her charity work.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan took to twitter, hoping the royal couple will return home with good memories at their visit’s end. She said the visit is taking place months after British Airways resumed flights to Pakistan, over a decade after they were suspended in the wake of a truck bombing of a hotel in the capital, which killed dozens.
Pakistan witnessed scores of acts of terrorism in recent years, though the security situation has improved recently.
For security reasons, authorities shared limited details about the royal couple’s itinerary, which is expected to include a visit to the country’s scenic northern provinces and the historical eastern city of Lahore.
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