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Diplomacy, Economics

Saudi prince arrives in Pakistan to start Asia tour

The crown prince will follow up his visit to Pakistan with trips to India and China.


Written by

Updated: February 18, 2019

Amid heightened security and arrangements in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Saudi Crown Mohammad bin Salman has arrived at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.

As he stepped down from the aircraft, the crown prince was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The premier’s cabinet members and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa were also present at the air base to receive the Saudi guest.

PM Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa await to receive MBS. — DawnNewsTV

A formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets escorted the plane of the Saudi royal after its entry into the Pakistani airspace. The crown prince will be given a 21-gun salute shortly.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry welcomed Prince Mohammad on Twitter, saying the crown prince was coming to join his “family and [his] own country”.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir landed at Nur Khan Air Base ahead of the crown prince’s arrival in a separate airplane. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood was present on the tarmac to welcome his Saudi counterpart.

The crown prince, who is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Khan, will be accorded a red carpet welcome and presented a guard of honour at the PM House.

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

A high-powered delegation comprising key ministers and some prominent businessmen, besides members of the royal family, is also coming with the crown prince for his two-day visit.

Earlier, the crown prince was due to reach Pakistan on February 16, but his arrival was delayed for a day for unknown reasons.

Islamabad has described the visit as a “historical one” which will help stabilise the crippling economy of the country as over $21 billion Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) are likely to be inked between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during the visit.

About an hour ahead of the crown prince’s anticipated arrival, Finance Minister Asad Umar tweeted that he had held a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih and his team.

During the meeting, a wide range of investment projects worth billions of dollars were discussed, the minister revealed, adding that MoUs in this regard would be signed later today.

Two receptions will be held in the Presidency and Prime Minister House in honour of the crown prince during which one-on-one meetings between him and President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Khan will take place. The crown prince will also meet Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Not only the government but the opposition has also hailed the visit of the crown prince as PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari have welcomed the Saudi royal in their statements.

However, opposition parties have lashed out at the federal government for not inviting their leaders to the official reception to be hosted in honour of MBS and termed it an undemocratic and un-parliamentary step.

According to Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, Pakistan’s highest civil award, the Nishan-e-Pakistan, will be conferred on the crown prince in an investiture ceremony at the presidency on Monday.

After Pakistan, MBS will travel to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

He is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday.

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



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Dawn
About the Author: Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

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