ISLAMABAD - In a rare show of warmth and amity, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had assigned the duties of lady-in-waiting to his daughter Ms Maryam Nawaz Sharif to welcome China’s First Lady Ms Peng Liyuan – a move some quarters saw as unusual because under a routine protocol some minister or government official is assigned the task.

Officials in government saw no awkwardness in assigning the task to Ms Maryam Nawaz, who otherwise has successfully accomplished many a tasks assigned to her including looking after the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, the job she voluntarily relinquished sometime back.

The move was aimed at showing the extraordinary warmth the Pakistani leadership has for the Chinese leadership, which was duly reciprocated by the visiting Chinese President terming Pakistan as his second home.

Parliamentary sources said that assigning of such duties to a person not holding any official position in government is rare but not unusual, as on many occasions in the past such duties were assigned to people who were neither government officials nor held any ministerial portfolios.

These sources further informed that on the eve of second Islamic Summit Conference organised in Lahore in February 1974 by the then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a number of persons with no official capacity were assigned the protocol duties and such examples could also be quoted from Zia and Musharraf eras also.

When contacted, the spokesperson for Ms Maryam Nawaz Sharif said that as per the duties assigned to Ms Maryam she facilitated China’s First Lady Ms Peng Liyuan during her stay in Islamabad. To a question he said that Maryam received the First Lady on her arrival at the hotel and accompanied her to all the meetings she attended along with President Xi Jinping during their two-day stay in Islamabad.

Except the Chinese President’s meeting with the leadership of various political parties and his meeting with the Services Chiefs, the First Lady remained with President Xi during his all engagements, so there was no individual or personal engagements of Ms Peng in Islamabad, he explained.

To a question, he said that Ms Maryam explained the details of the cultural show organised in honour of visiting dignitaries and Ms Peng having the background in art and culture, took a keen interest in the cultural show. To another question, the spokesperson said that as per the schedule Ms Maryam not accompanied PM Nawaz Sharif and her mother Begum Kalsoom Nawaz to receive or see off the visiting dignitaries at the airport.

Historically the term lady-in-waiting is used for a female personal assistant at a court, royal or feudal attending on a queen. Usually such position is offered to princesses or high-ranking noblewomen from a family of elite class. Lady-in-waiting is often a generic term for women whose relative rank, title, and official functions vary, although such distinctions are most often honorary.