Dubai The historic two-day official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman concluded with a strong message about the ‘bright future of Pakistan.
“Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman won the hearts of the people of Pakistan when he said “consider me Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia” in response to my asking him to treat the 2.5 mn Pakistani’s working in KSA as his own,” Prime Minister Imran Khan summed up his feelings in his tweet.
Crown Prince Mohammad was seen off on Monday by Premier Imran and Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Nur Khan Airbase. But before leaving, they held a candid but important press conference.
Imran thanked the Crown Prince for his visit hoping that he would stay longer next time “so I can show you the beauty of Pakistan and the northern areas.” He also thanked Prince Mohammad for his announcement of releasing more than 2,000 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails with immediate effect. “I want to thank you on behalf of the people of Pakistan” for announcing the release of Pakistani prisoners,” he said. He also thanked the crown prince for the agreements worth $20 billion that were signed on the first day of his visit in Islamabad.
We believe in Pakistan’s future and that it has a huge opportunity. In 2030, Pakistan will be next to two huge economies.
“I woke up this morning and when I looked at my mobile phone, I realised ─ after your statement last night saying that you would be Pakistan’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia ─ that if you stand in elections here, you would get more votes than me,” Imran said on a lighter note, addressing the Crown Prince who was standing at a podium to his right. “You are extremely popular,” he added.
Crown Prince Mohammad told the press conference: “We believe in Pakistan’s future and that it has a huge opportunity. In 2030, Pakistan will be next to two huge economies. One, China will be the largest economy in 2030, and two, India will be the third-largest economy so Pakistan will definitely benefit from these neighbours,” he said.
“We saw the Pakistani economy grow by 5 per cent in 2018 so we believe that Pakistan has huge potential, it could be one of top 20 economies in the future,” he reiterated.
“If the efforts of the leadership, the people of Pakistan, and their allies come together, definitely it can reach that one day,” he added.
Saudi Arabia has always been a 'friend in need' to Pakistan. For Pakistanis, this is a great day.
“So because of that, we believe in Pakistan and we want to be part of that journey and we want to risk our money, risk our efforts, to start from day one,” he explained.
“What we did today, it’s the beginning and we hope in the close future we do more and more partnering with Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistan is a very important country
After receiving a very warm welcome upon his arrival in Islamabad on Sunday, Crown Prince Mohammad engaged in various activities lined up for the day.
Speaking at the official reception at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Prince Mohammad said Pakistan will be a very, very important country in the future and that his country had been waiting for a leadership like that of Prime Minister Imran Khan to partner with Islamabad in various areas.
“Whatever we did was the beginning and I hope in the near future we do more,” he said.
That was evident in Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a whopping $20 billion investment to help Pakistan tide over its economic problems.
The credit for that change goes to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who unlike his predecessors, sought investment instead of charity. The Saudi investment is not a charity as it will benefit both the countries.
The investment will be mainly in minerals, tourism, petrochemicals, agriculture, food processing and other key sectors.
The crown prince said Pakistan is a “dear country” to all Saudis and that the two countries “have walked together in tough and good times”.
Prime Minister Imran in his speech welcomed the Saudi crown prince and his delegation to the country, saying the Kingdom has always been a “friend in need” to Pakistan.
“For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia had always been there when Pakistan needed friends.
Imran said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were now taking their relationship to a new level, where investment agreements would be mutually beneficial for the countries.
Khan told the Crown Prince that if it hadn’t been for security concerns, “you would have seen thousands and thousands of people on the streets welcoming you.”
He requested the Crown Prince to allow Pakistani Haj pilgrims to complete immigration at the three major Pakistani airports before leaving for Saudi Arabia for their convenience.
Prime Minister Imran requested the Saudi authorities to look into the hardships of Pakistani labourers working in the Kingdom.
In response, the Crown Prince told Prime Minister Khan he could consider him the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia.
“We cannot say no to Pakistan ... whatever we can do, we will deliver that,” he said.
Saudi Pakistan Supreme Council
Bilateral ties also received a significant boost with the launch of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council. Chaired by Imran and Prince Mohammad, the council is a high-level institutional mechanism to fast-track decisions in critical aspects of cooperation, and to monitor its implementation in three key areas: political and security, economic, social and culture.
Seven MoUs signed
Seven Memoranda of Understanding were signed at a ceremony witnessed by Crown Prince Mohammad and Prime Minister Imran at the Prime Minister’s House,
The agreements signed include:
Technical cooperation programme between the Saudi Standards, Metrology And Quality Organisation (SASO) and Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA).
Cooperation agreement between Saudi and Pakistani governments in the field of sports.
Financing agreement for the import of Saudi goods between the Saudi Fund for Development and Pakistan.
Framework MoU regarding Saudi funds’ participation in the financing of power generation projects between the Saudi Fund for Development and Pakistan.
MoU between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in refining and petrochemical sectors.
MoU between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in the field of mineral resource sector.
MoU between the government of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan on the development of renewable energy projects.
Prime Minister Khan also held a one-on-one meeting with the Saudi crown prince at PM House. It was followed by the inaugural session of the Saudi-Pak This is not charity
In response to the Saudi investment of $20 billion in different projects in Pakistan, , Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir said on Monday: “This is not charity, but investment for the benefit of the two countries.”
“We are developing a roadmap with set targets ahead in areas including counter-terrorism, economy, people-to-people contacts and culture to further deepen our relations,” the Saudi Minister said in a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Foreign Minister Qureshi said 10 joint working groups had been formed under the Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council, which would meet every three months. He said the Council would coordinate in areas including security, defence, intelligence sharing and energy and the leadership would oversee the implementation of projects.
What analysts say
Senior officials and analysts praised the visit. They said it presents a “historic opportunity” to expand collaboration in all sectors.
Dr. Huma Baqai, expert on International Relations, said the high-profile visit is manifestation of the strength of the relationship and it would go a long way in building strategic and economic relations that have been the hallmark of two brotherly countries.
Economist Mirza Ikhtiar Baig said Pakistan is facing several economic challenges and Saudi investment in development projects in the country would send across a positive message to the world about Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia was investing in long-term projects, which showed that Middle East countries have sighted Pakistan to be a developed country in the near future, he said.
The economist said the main focus of Pakistan is to strengthen trade, agriculture, tourism and other relations with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is interested to establish an oil refinery in Gwadar.
Former Foreign Secretary Najam-ud-Din Sheikh said the Saudi relationship with Pakistan is considered to be exemplary and exceptional. He said Pakistan supported Saudi’s role and provided all out assistance to the Kingdom at political, military and diplomatic levels. Former Ambassador Fauzia Nasreen also praised the visit. She said heavy investment in development projects would be a message to the world that Pakistan is a haven for foreign investors.
Prince Mohammad Bin Salman ordered the immediate release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners from jails in Saudi Arabia. Pakistan Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said Crown Prince Salman ordered the release of prisoners following a request from Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said cases of other Pakistani prisoners would also be reviewed.
The minister tweeted: “As a sequel to Prime Minister of Pakistan request, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman has ordered the immediate release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails. Saudi Crown Prince arrived in Islamabad on a two-day official visit on Sunday.
The biggest Saudi investment will be to set up an oil refinery in port city Gwadar. The oil refinery and petrochemical complex with an investment of around $11 billion would open new energy vistas in Pakistan. The Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with his Saudi counterpart to set up a $10 billion oil refinery, $ 1 billion petrochemical complex, installation of two Re-gassified Liquefied Petroleum Gas (RLNG) plants at an estimated cost of $4 billion and $2 billion investment in mineral development sector, an official source told APP.
“The petrochemical complex and refinery will help bring down the country’s oil import bill by $ 1.2 billion annually,” he said, adding Pakistan’s annual oil consumption was around 26 million tons (MT), out of which 13.5 MT was met through local production of eight existing oil refineries. “Around 50 per cent crude oil is imported to meet energy needs.”
Highest Civil Award for Crown Prince
President Dr Arif Alvi conferred the Pakistan’s highest civil award “Nishan-e-Pakistan” on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman during a ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sad in Islamabad.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan, federal ministers, three Services Chiefs, Chairman Joint Chiefs of the Staff Committee, members of the Saudi delegation and senior civil and military officials.
The country’s highest civil award was conferred on the Saudi Crown Prince in recognition of his efforts and contributions towards enhancing bilateral brotherly and traditional ties between the two countries.