The first Muslim mayor of London – Sadiq Khan – is visiting Pakistan. The visit of the London mayor is significant for several reasons. It is a part of his #LondonIsOpen tour which aims to promote the UK as a business, education and cultural hub following the Brexit decision.
The trip, which is the first in a decade for a British mayor, can yield positive dividends for Pakistani economy as it focuses on strengthening relationships between Pakistani cities and London, amongst the world’s most diverse cities.
Khan chose an unconventional route into Pakistan on Wednesday morning; by walking through the Wagah Border into Pakistan he caused the British Foreign Office some concern but he defended his choice as a symbolic move both personally, and for the two countries.
We hope that the policy makers have taken full benefit of the opportunity and explored in depth possible avenues of cooperation between London and various Pakistani cities.
He stressed that London still offered opportunities in education, tourism and entrepreneurship to South Asians, and also referred to the founder of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had studied in London. He noted the issue of stringent visa requirements and assured that he was working with the British authorities to restore post-study work visas for international students.
Sadiq Khan’s candidness was a refreshing move away from diplomatic norm. The mayor visited several historical sites in India and in Pakistan. When visiting Amritsar, he called on the British government to apologise for the Jallianwalla Bagh incident in 1919. The mayor’s visit has been vastly different to visits of diplomatic personnel from western countries. It lacked the essential formalness of a diplomatic visit and helped fostering contact on a more sociable level, and emphasising close ties between London and Pakistancities.
Sadiq Khan has espoused confidence in Pakistan and has focused on a constructive relationship with Pakistanis. We hope that he and his Pakistani counterparts will follow up on their discussions and find avenues for promotion of mutually beneficial economic ties. *