Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Prince William, Kate kick off five-day tour

Published:Wednesday | October 16, 2019 | 1:50 AM

ISLAMABAD (AP):

Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate kicked off a five-day tour of Pakistan yesterday amid much fanfare and tight security.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan. They were 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 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 the hospitality extended to him and his entourage, the statement said.

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 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 – a loose collarless shirt – and trousers, 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 per cent of girls in Pakistan attend secondary school, the report said, compared to nearly 50 per cent among boys.

Taliban militants in Pakistan violently oppose girls’ education and infamously shot Malala Yousafzai — now a leading girls’ education activist who attends Oxford University in Britain. Militants in recent years have damaged girls’ schools in the northwest, including the Swat Valley, which is home to Yousafzai.

The royal couple arrived in Islamabad Monday night.