British royals meet Pakistani leadership on ‘historic’ visit

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Prime Minister Imran Khan received the royal couple at his official residence in Islamabad. (Photo/Supplied)
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Prime Minister Imran Khan received the royal couple at his official residence in Islamabad. (Reuters)
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Prime Minister Imran Khan received the royal couple at his official residence in Islamabad. (Photo/Supplied)
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Prime Minister Imran Khan received the royal couple at his official residence in Islamabad. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 15 October 2019

British royals meet Pakistani leadership on ‘historic’ visit

  • First royal trip in more than a decade
  • Ambitious and complex trip spans 1,000 km

ISLAMABAD: Prince William and Kate Middleton met Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday as part of a landmark visit to the country.

Khan received the royal couple at his official residence in Islamabad shortly after they were greeted by Alvi and his wife. 

“While welcoming the royal couple, Prime Minister Imran Khan recalled the love and affection among the people of Pakistan for Princess Diana because of her compassion as well as commitment to support charitable causes,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said. “The prime minister apprised the royal couple of domestic priorities and Pakistan’s perspective on the external environment, including relations with India, and support for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

The prince thanked the government for its warm welcome and hospitality and described Pakistan as “a very important country for the UK.”

The country’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party tweeted about the meetings, branding the royal visit “historic.”

“Pakistan has come out of international isolation due to engaging foreign policy under PTI Government,” one post said. “The current foreign policy to engage with all countries have enabled Royal couple to visit Pakistan on their maiden trip, this is first Royal trip since 2006.”

The royal couple visited a government-run girls’ school to “champion the importance of quality education, particularly for girls,” the British High Commission in Islamabad said.

They met pupils of different ages and learned how they were benefiting from a fast-track teacher training program modeled on the UK’s successful “Teach First” scheme.

“49% of girls are out of school in Pakistan — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement at Islamabad Model College is championing the importance of quality education, and how girls benefit from pursuing higher education and professional careers,” said the official Twitter account for Kensington Palace.

The couple also visited Margalla Hills to take part in activities highlighting Pakistan’s work to meet sustainable development goals.

FASTFACT

The couple also visited Margalla Hills to take part in activities highlighting Pakistan’s work to meet sustainable development goals.

They joined children from four local schools to set up a leopard camera trap. “Environmental change and its impact is an increasingly serious issue in Pakistan, a country especially vulnerable to climate change. The Margalla Hills in particular face threats of encroachment, poaching, wildfires, invasive species and littering,” the British High Commission said.

Foreign policy experts called the royal trip an important moment for the country.

“The royal visit serves a symbolic purpose highlighting the historic ties between Britain and Pakistan as a member of the Commonwealth,” Rasul Bakhsh Rais, who teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, told Arab News. 

“In the present context, the aim is to promote Pakistan’s positive image as a safe and secure country that is connected with the rest of the world community.”

He added that images of the visit would be splashed around the world, greatly contributing to the country’s image-building exercise. 

Kate’s outfits, a demure blend of Pakistani silhouettes and Western tailoring, have already created a stir. She has been wearing pieces from firm favorite Catherine Walker and teeming them with accessories from Pakistani brands such as Satrangi and Zeen. Images of her and the prince, looking relaxed and happy, have been beamed around the world. For her meeting with the country’s leadership she wore green and white - the colors of Pakistan’s flag.

“The visit has certainly helped project a positive image of Pakistan. The high-profile visit of the royal couple will help remove the perception about Pakistan as being a dangerous country,” author Zahid Hussain told Arab News.

Pakistani authorities have deployed more than 1,000 security personnel to ensure the royal couple’s protection.

“The UK’s links with Pakistan are extensive, and TRH (Their Royal Highnesses) are looking forward to building a lasting friendship with the people of Pakistan,” the British High Commission said.

The ambitious and complex visit will span over 1,000 km, taking in Pakistan’s rich culture, diverse communities and stunning landscapes.


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 26 May 2020

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”