ISLAMABAD     -    The United Kingdom yesterday pledged to support Pakistan as a ‘key partner and friend’ as the royal couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton, met top Pakistani leadership here.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, on their first full day in the Islamabad met President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and visited two education programmes, including a government-run school for students aged between four and 18.

Later, they arrived in style on a culturally decorated rickshaw to a reception hosted by British High Commissioner for Pakistan Thomas Drew. The royal couple met well-known individuals from business, the creative arts, music and film industry, and members of government at the reception.

Speaking on the occasion, Prince William said that the UK will continue to support the Commonwealth member Pakistan as a ‘key partner and friend’ as he aimed to strengthen ties between the two nations.

“We share unique bonds and so it will always be in our best interest for Pakistan to succeed. You can always rely on the UK to keep playing an important role as a key partner and friend,” he added.

William covered issues including education for girls and climate change, urging Britain and Pakistan to continue to work together. “Whether in Pakistan or the UK or elsewhere on our planet, we face shared global challenges. The effects of climate change threaten the present and the future – and therefore demand a concerted effort by everyone,” he said.

They wore traditional garments as they arrived for a reception at the Pakistani Monument.

Earlier, at the meeting with PM Khan, William recalled how everyone laughed at a gathering in Richmond-upon-Thames in 1996 when the former Pakistan, Sussex, and Worcestershire cricketer announced his political ambition to the then teenage Prince William and his mother Princess Diana.

Diana had taken him to see Khan and his then wife, Jemima Goldsmith, at the Goldsmith family home in Richmond. Khan, who was finally elected Pakistani Prime Minister in July 2018, suggested it had been as hard a slog as his earlier career as a Test cricketer.

PM Khan said: “When I went with my mother to see a Test match my cousin was playing and he scored a century and I told my mother I wanted to be a Test cricketer. I never realised how difficult it was to eventually become one. Similarly, when I told you that I wanted to succeed I didn’t realise it would take me 22 years. William replied: “Sure. It’s not so easy.”

Before meeting PM Khan, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a meeting with President Arif Alvi at the President’s House.

Kate Middleton, who was wearing white trousers by the Pakistani designer Maheen Khan and an emerald green tunic by Catherine Walker and a navy patterned scarf by Satrangi, another local designer, and earrings by the country’s firm Zeen, interjected: “You stuck with it.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are guarded by a ring of steel with 1,000 police officers on a visit dubbed the “most complex” ever by Kensington Palace.

The couple, who are on a five-day tour of the country, wrapped up the first full day of their royal visit by taking in some of the best of Pakistan’s music and culture. And they were a vision in green during their glamorous arrival in a motorized rickshaw.

Kate Middleton glittered in a sparkling deep emerald column gown by Jenny Packham and earrings by Onitaa, sourced from Pakistan, while William cut a dashing figure in a traditional green sherwani by Pakistani designer Naushemian.

William and Kate spent the evening at the iconic Pakistan Monument in the capital city. The bash was very much part of the desire by William and Kate to have the opportunity “to meet as many Pakistanis as possible including children and young people, leaders from government, business and the charity sector, inspiring conservationists, and well-known cultural figures and sporting stars,” the couple’s spokesperson said.