Redefining Saudi-Pak ties: A historic moment for Pakistan as agreements get inked

Redefining Saudi-Pak ties: A historic moment for Pakistan as agreements get inked

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The crown prince had originally been due to arrive on Saturday but the Pakistan foreign ministry released a statement late Friday saying the visit had been delayed by one day, with the programme unchanged.

On Thursday night, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting to review arrangements ahead of the Saudi crown prince’s arrival. The meeting was attended by federal ministers, advisers, special assistants, Corps Commander Rawalpindi, DG ISPR and senior government officials.

The meeting reviewed in detail the security arrangements as well as the engagements scheduled for the crown prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrived in Pakistan yesterday for a two-day visit.

Upon arrival, a historic welcome was given to the Saudi crown prince, widely known as “MbS”, who is accompanied by a high-powered delegation, including members of Saudi Royal family, key ministers and leading businesspersons.

PM Imran received Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman at the airport. A 21-gun salute and a guard of honour will be presented to the crown prince when he arrives at the Prime Minister House.

MBS was warmly embraced by Khan and powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as he stepped onto a red carpet flanked by an honour guard at a military airbase near Islamabad.

The Saudi Crown Price visited Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan and will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including members of the Saudi Royal family, key ministers and leading businessmen.

The two-day visit to Pakistan comes amid high tensions in the region: India and Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran — both bordering Pakistan — have accused Islamabad of backing terror groups which have carried out bloody suicide attacks on their soil in recent days.

Pakistan rescheduled flights, blocking-off luxury hotels, and — according to one report Friday — collecting 3,500 pigeons and colourful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been decked out in images of the Saudi royal family and banners welcoming the crown prince.

Banners heralding the crown prince were already lining the streets of the capital, while a local newspaper reported that the authorities were trying to catch so many pigeons for a welcome ceremony that they were forced to collect birds from other cities.

The crown prince’s trip is being treated by Islamabad as the biggest state visit since Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. The visit marks a deepening in ties between allies.

A fleet of JF-17 Thunder jets escorted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s planes as they enter Pakistan’s airspace.

Directing full-fledged arrangements for the security and stay of the crown prince and the delegates, the premier was quoted as saying, “I will overlook these arrangements myself.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa greeted Prince Mohammed on the red carpet of a military airport in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, before the prime minister personally drove the crown prince to federal capital.

Further, the premier said the Saudi crown prince’s visit is “a defining moment for Pakistan”.

The Punjab government has announced the imposition of Section 144 in Rawalpindi during the Crown Prince’s visit.

Police, the armed forces, and the Saudi Royal Guards will provide security, a senior Islamabad police official told AFP.

The capital’s “red zone”, which houses Parliament House and the Presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the prince’s arrival and departure.

Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as the rooms will be reserved for the prince’s entourage.

A public holiday has been declared in Islamabad today in view of the occasion.

The prime minister, welcoming the Saudi Crown Prince, said it was a great day for the Pakistani people.

PM drives car to take Prince Salman to PM House

Taking a departure from the norm, PM Imran himself drove the car to the PM House.

When Saudi crown prince’s plane reached Pakistani air space, Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 Thunder and F-16 jets took the plane into its protective circle.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with other officials reached the airbase to receive his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

Sources said that a 19-member, high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia reached Islamabad earlier today amid tight security.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be conferred with the country’s highest civil award Nishan-e-Pakistan today (Monday).

The award would be conferred on the Saudi crown prince at an investiture ceremony to be held at the Presidency.

The Saudi King is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday.

This is the first official visit of the dignitary to Pakistan since his elevation to the position of Crown Prince in April 2017.

Two short stops initially scheduled for Sunday and Monday in Indonesia and Malaysia were postponed on Saturday without explanation.

The Asia trip comes five months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a fierce critic of MbS, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul ignited a diplomatic crisis.

Riyadh initially denied the murder, then gave several conflicting accounts of Khashoggi´s death, and now claims he was killed in an unauthorized operation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan however, has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since coming to power last summer.

During Crown Prince Salman’s stay, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan will sign a number of agreements and MoUs in diverse sectors including investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports.

The two countries will also discuss ways and means to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of cooperation.

Moreover, the Crown Prince will hold meetings with President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. A delegation of Pakistan’s Senate will also call on him and discuss ways to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday co-chaired the inaugural session of Supreme Coordination Council (SCC) with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Ministers from Saudi Arabia will also hold meetings with their Pakistani counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation.

The crown prince´s visit to Islamabad will also apparently coincide with possible new talks between the Taliban and the United States on Afghanistan.

The Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SCC), led by the Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan, will also be launched during the visit. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office, the Council will help the two countries for effective coordination and follow-up to achieve mutually agreed objectives.

The objective to put in place a high-level institutional mechanism was to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation.

The Coordination Council includes respective ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Defence Production, Finance, Energy, Petroleum, Water Resources, Information, Culture, Interior, Commerce, Trade and Investment and Human Resources of both countries.

The Council would cover areas under three pillars: political and security, economic, and social and culture.

Under the Supreme Coordination Council, a steering committee and joint working groups have been set up at ministerial and senior officials’ levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective ministers.

The functioning of the Supreme Council would be coordinated by the ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries. It would meet annually in Riyadh and Islamabad alternately, the statement said.

Before co-chairing the session, PM Khan had a one-to-one meeting with Saudi Crown Prince at the Prime Minister House.

The high-powered Supreme Coordination Council was proposed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia in October last year.

The two countries will also discuss ways and means to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of cooperation.

MoUs and agreements

According to Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal the following MoUs are expected to be signed during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit.

  • An executive program for cultural cooperation to encourage cooperation in the field of culture and arts.
  • An Executive Program for Media Cooperation to enhance and strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field of information and media.
  • MoU on establishment of an integrated complex, petrochemical refinery.
  • An agreement in the fields of youth and sports.
  • MoU on combatting organised crime.
  • An agreement on Technical Cooperation in Standardisation, improving trade and removing Technical Barriers to Trade.
  • MoU on Development of Renewable Energy Projects.
  • MoU in the field of Mineral Resources.
  • MoU on Drug Control, Smuggling and Psychotropic substances.

PM Imran, while addressing the MoU-signing ceremony, said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan always enjoyed brotherly relations. “Saudi Arabia always stood beside Pakistan in difficult times.”

Apart from the several memorandums of understanding, several business agreements are also expected to be reached during the visit. These include up to $12bn in Saudi investment in Pakistan in the near future, and $8bn investment for the establishment of an oil refinery.

During the visit by the Crown Prince, Pakistan is also expected to propose a preferential trade agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan signed a raft of investment deals Sunday worth up to $20 billion.

Kicking off his tour of South Asia and China with a far higher Pakistan investment than expected, the crown prince said the $20 billion figure represents only the start of an economic tie-up that would bring the historic Muslim allies even closer.

“We are taking Pak-Saudi ties to its zenith,” said the PM, adding that in future the relations would reach new heights.

“It’s big for phase 1, and definitely it will grow every month and every year, and it will be beneficial to both countries,” said the crown prince.

“We have been a brotherly country, a friendly country to Pakistan. We’ve walked together in tough and good times, and we (will) continue.”

The prime minister said that the two countries need to extend cooperation in tourism, petrochemicals, and other fields.

He said with the brilliant prospects and excellent opportunities in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan welcomed Saudi Arabia to participate in the regional development.

Prime Minister Imran Khan referred to the problems of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and requested that their immigration should be done in the three big cities of Pakistan.

He also mentioned the problems faced by Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia, whom he considered very close to his heart and very special. He said about two million Pakistanis were living in Saudi Arabia and requested the Crown Prince to look into their issues.

Imran further requested the Crown Prince to take measures for the early release of 3,000 Pakistani prisoners jailed in Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has always been a friend in need, which is why we value it so much,” said the prime minister, while seated next to Prince Mohammed. “I want to thank you for the way you helped us when we were in bad situation.”

The crown prince, in response, assured the prime minister that Saudi Arabia would do whatever it could to address those issues. Having said that, the Saudi King ordered immediate release of nearly 3000 Pakistani prisoners.

He also thanked the Saudi Crown Prince for the financial support the Kingdom had extended recently to Pakistan.

The prime minister said with such cooperation and growing partnership, both the countries were taking their ties to such a level which had never been seen before.

The crown prince referred to the historic, brotherly and deep relationship between the two countries and expressed optimism that the same would further strengthen.

Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia desired an economically and politically strong Pakistan. He said Pakistan had a great future under its new leadership.

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