Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was welcomed on his maiden two-day trip to Islamabad on Sunday where he signed deals worth $20 billion, promised to smoothen travel between the two nations and free Pakistani prisoners in Saudi jails. He was also awarded Pakistan’s highest civilian award by Pakistan President Arif Alvi.
The crown prince’s visit was delayed by a day due to unspecified reasons and was linked to heightened tensions between India and Pakistan due to the Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel. Saudi Arabia on Friday said it stood with India’s fight against terrorism and censured Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terming the attack ‘cowardly’.
The de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia was welcomed and personally driven by Prime Minister Imran Khan to the PM’s residence in Rawalpindi, in a departure from protocol. He was accorded a red-carpet welcome and was presented the guard of honour at Khan’s house yesterday, Dawn reported.
Here’s all that happened during his visit:
Gwadar port gets $8 bn investment, other MoUs signed
Among several multi-billion dollar investments by Saudi Arabia into Pakistan, an 8-billion dollar agreement was signed for the establishment of an oil refinery in Gwadar port city in Pakistan’s Balochistan region. The port is also part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.
Three government-to-government MoU’s worth billions were signed in oil refining, LNG and mineral development fields. Other $8 billion MOUs were also signed in fields of water, power, investment, finance, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports to promote trade and investment in cash-strapped Pakistan.
Pakistan is set to propose a preferential trade agreement with Saudi and chalk out a strategy on easing out the process for business visas for Pakistanis. A mechanism to implement bilateral agreements will be devised by a joint coordination council which will be co-chaired by the Crown Prince and Pakistan PM.
Boost for economic ties
Both heads of the nations held a joint business conference Monday to strengthen economic ties, a day after they signed a slew of investment agreements.
“These agreements will lay the foundation for enhanced economic cooperation between Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Pakistan Foreign Office said in its statement.
The Crown Prince addressed the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council. “Today we signed MoUs. The amount of that kind of investment is USD 20 billion. It is big for phase one and definitely it will grow every month every year in bigger numbers and it will be beneficial for both countries,” PTI report quoted him as saying.
The Crown Prince added that Pakistan was an important country for Saudi Arabia and that he was keen to build future ties with it. Commenting on the future of bilateral cooperation, Pakistan PM Khan said, “The future is exciting for both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia after joining hands.”
Easing travel, nearly 3,000 Pakistanis in Saudi jails to be freed
Imran Khan took to Twitter and wrote that the Crown Prince had won the hearts of people in Pakistan. “When he said ‘consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia’ in response to my (Khan) asking him to treat the 2.5 million Pakistanis working in KSA as his own,” he said.
Khan also urged the Crown Prince to delve into the problems faced by nearly 3,000 Pakistanis held in Saudi jails since 2017, to which the Crown Prince agreed to free them with immediate effect.
HRH Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has graciously agreed to free 2107 Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia with immediate effect. Cases of the remaining will be reviewed. People of Pakistan thank HRH for responding immediately to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request.
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) February 18, 2019
Khan also requested the Crown Prince to speed up the immigration process for Pakistani pilgrims, after the recent announcement by the Saudi embassy to implement a massive reduction in visa fees for Pakistanis.
MBS conferred with the highest civilian award
Mohammad bin Salman was conferred with the highest civilian award Nishan-e-Pakistan by President Arif Alvi for his ‘outstanding support’ in reinvigorating ties between both the countries.
The Crown Prince arrived at the President House in the traditional chariot along with Prime Minister Khan and was welcomed by President Alvi who hosted a luncheon for him. The Pakistani PM, members of Prince Salman’s delegation, diplomats, senior officers and Cabinet ministers attended the ceremony.
As per PTI reports, while concluding his visit, Prince Salman said that Pakistan has the potential to become one of the top 20 economies of the world. At the see off ceremony, PM Khan and Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa bid adieu to the Saudi Crown Prince at Nur Khan Airbase. The Saudi Prince who has returned to Riyadh is slated to visit India on Tuesday.