Storm forces William and Kate’s royal plane to abandon Islamabad landing

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The RAF Voyager aircraft that the The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travelled is seen, in Lahore, Pakistan. (Reuters)
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Britain's Prince William and his wife Britain's Catherine visit the historical Badshahi mosque in Lahore. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2019

Storm forces William and Kate’s royal plane to abandon Islamabad landing

  • British Royal Air Force jet was caught in one of the thunderous storms that periodically rock the capital in October
  • “If I’m honest ... that was the most nervous I’ve ever felt in a plane,” added ITV royal correspondent Chris Ship

LAHORE: A fierce storm in Islamabad forced a plane carrying Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate to abandon two landings before returning to Lahore late Thursday, reporters traveling with them said, in a dramatic end to a day of cracking cricket balls and touring the towering historic Badshahi Mosque.
The Voyager, a British Royal Air Force jet transporting the couple during their five-day tour of Pakistan, was caught in one of the thunderous storms that periodically rock the capital in October.
“The pilot circled for an hour but the lightening — and turbulence — was so bad we had to fly back,” tweeted the Daily Mail’s royal correspondent Rebecca English, who was on board the plane.
“Few of us have experienced turbulence as bad as that,” she added.
“If I’m honest ... that was the most nervous I’ve ever felt in a plane,” added ITV royal correspondent Chris Ship.
Daily Telegraph correspondent Ben Farmer said the pilot had tried to land twice, once at a military base in the garrison city of Rawalpindi adjacent to Islamabad, and once at Islamabad International before abandoning the attempt and returning to Lahore, some 270 kilometers (170 miles) flying distance away.
However all on board appeared to be safe, with English tweeting that Prince William — himself a pilot — had joked with the press pack that he had been flying.
English said it was unclear when they would be able to take off again. There was no immediate statement from Kensington Palace.


The mid-air flight drama came after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had spent the day exploring Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital.
The royal couple kicked off their fourth day in Pakistan with a visit to the SOS Children’s Village orphanage, where Kate gave a brief speech along with a short greeting in Urdu and celebrated children’s birthdays.
“Earlier this year I talked about the fact that it takes a village to raise a child. The village we’ve seen here today is the best representation of that ideal that I could have possibly imagined,” she said.
The Duke and Duchess later took to the crease at the National Cricket Academy, where they both hit a few runs as they played alongside a host of current and former cricket stars, including current bowling coach Waqar Younis.
After an outfit change, the duo headed to Lahore’s famous Badshahi Mosque — one of the world’s largest.
William sported a cream-colored linen suit and Kate donned a light green shalwar kameez, wrapping her hair in a matching headscarf and walking in stockinged feet to show her respect.
William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, caused a controversy at the same mosque in 1991 when she wore an above-the-knee dress, sparking a backlash from some Muslim leaders who argued she should have covered up.
The couple rounded off the trip with a visit to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, founded by Prime Minister Imran Khan, where Diana is remembered fondly for helping raise money for the facility in the 1990s.
Kensington Palace has called the Cambridges’ five-day trip, which ends Friday, their “most complex” tour to date as the royals seek to boost ties between Britain and the second largest country in the Commonwealth.
The couple have spent much of the trip promoting various causes, from girls’ education to conservation and climate change awareness as they criss-crossed the country.
Security has improved dramatically since the army intensified a crackdown on militant groups in 2015, with several countries changing their travel warnings for Pakistan as a result, and Islamabad eager to promote both tourism and foreign investment.
There are promising signs, such as the British Airways return earlier this year after more than a decade, and the slow but steady revival of international cricket.


Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

Updated 21 November 2019

Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

  • Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky
  • Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he followed the president’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.
Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky for the investigation and that top officials in the White House and State Department knew about it.
The unexpectedly damning testimony drew a sharp backlash from Trump who tweeted: “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!.”
Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much, despite the senior diplomat having donated $1 million to his inauguration and testifying that he had spoken to the president some 20 times while ambassador.
Democrats said Sondland’s seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee had bolstered their case for Trump’s impeachment for what they have labeled “extortion.”
“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said committee chairman Adam Schiff.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”
A succession of Democrats hoping to win the nomination to take on Trump in next year’s election also said the testimony had strengthened the case for impeachment as the issue dominated the opening exchanges in their latest televised primary debate.
Sondland said Trump directed him and two other senior diplomats to work with Giuliani.
From early in the year, Giuliani mounted a pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government to investigate Biden over his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and to probe a conspiracy theory espoused by Trump that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016. Biden is one of the favorites to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland told the panel.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he said.
Like Trump a multimillionaire developer with a chain of high-end hotels, Sondland, who wore a $55,000 Breguet white gold watch to the hearing, fended off pressure from both Democrats and Republicans.
He had not implicated the president in earlier private testimony, when he answered scores of questions by saying he could “not remember.”
But subsequent testimony by other witnesses which had further implicated him in the Ukraine pressure scheme had jolted his memory, he said on Wednesday.
While he confirmed the linkage between the investigations and a White House meeting between Zelensky and Trump, he would not attest to allegations that Trump froze $391 million in aid as well to Ukraine to add pressure on Ukraine.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he said, contradicting testimony from two other diplomats.
In separate testimony, a Pentagon official appeared to undermine a key Republican defense in the impeachment battle, that Kiev did not even know until late August or even September about the July 18 aid freeze, rendering moot Democrats’ allegations that Trump had extorted Ukraine.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine affairs, said Kiev voiced concern over a holdup in aid on July 25.
That was the same day that Trump told Zelensky in a phone call that he wanted a favor, asking for investigations into Biden specifically and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
“The Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” she told the committee.
At the White House, Trump denied making the demand of Zelensky, citing Sondland’s own recall of their September 9 phone call on the Ukraine issue.
Reading from large-print notes, he said that he told Sonderland: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!” he said of the inquiry.
Speaking at the Democrats’ debate, Biden dodged a question on the role of his son but said the testimony had shown that “Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee.”
And Bernie Sanders, another of the frontrunners for the nomination, said Trump had been shown to be “not only a pathological liar” but also “the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.”