If you’ve been following Sadiq Khan’s social media over the recent weeks, you’ll have seen his posts about his historic trip from India to Pakistan.
Earlier this month, the Mayor of London visited the two countries to promote business between the capital and cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
On the first day of his trip, he made history by becoming the first western politician of his generation to cross the border from India to Pakistan on foot.
Khan made the significant walk at Wagah. Seventy years after Partition, Wagah remains the only land crossing between two nations wracked by a history of conflict and unrest.
From business and political leaders, to cultural and sporting icons, to the many talented, inspiring, young Pakistanis with bright futures ahead – thank you to everyone we’ve met in Lahore, Karachi & Islamabad. #LondonIsOpen ?? pic.twitter.com/O8FQt9W9Xl
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) December 9, 2017
When Britain dissected its Indian empire in 1947, they cut a line between Lahore and Amritsar, creating two new countries and plunging both into turmoil. Faced with mounting uncertainty, around 15 million people fled the area, with Muslims heading to Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs to India.
The ensuing violence resulted in the death of over a million people. Khan’s parents were among the Muslim Indians who settled in Pakistan. While they didn’t experience the carnage of Partition directly, the Mayor’s grandparents did, something he was conscious of during his trip:
‘It was very difficult. My nan and that generation, their memories aren’t so great, because they remember what it meant.’
While Khan noted how his grandparents held some ill-feelings toward people of other faiths, his parents’ attitude was different: ‘What’s remarkable is that a generation on, the majority – not all – have not quite forgotten the atrocities, but recognise that you can’t blame somebody of the other faith for what happened.’
This spirit was clearly with Khan on the trip, where he visited faith leaders of different beliefs and a number of religious landmarks. One of these was Badshahi mosque in Lahore. At one point used as a garrison by the British Empire, the mosque is now one of Pakistan’s most iconic sights and a hugely significant place of worship.
Amidst the thriving energy of Lahore lies the iconic Badshahi mosque. Enjoyed the opportunity to experience the sense of stillness and serenity in this historic place of worship. ?? pic.twitter.com/5pOMqpVnJr
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) December 6, 2017
Although Khan’s visit was something of a business trip, his experiences speak of a wider story about identity and immigration. Like many Londoners, his parents emigrated to the city from another land, in an effort to provide the best opportunities for their family.
And like many people in the capital whose parents made that journey, Khan is a Brit, a Muslim, a Londoner and someone who is proud of their heritage.
As he told a reporter who asked if the trip felt like a homecoming: ‘Home is south London mate….But it’s good to be in Pakistan, it’s good to come from India – home of my parents and grandparents.’