LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif left for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

According to an official press release, the chief minister will hold ‘important’ meetings in the kingdom, besides performing Umra. No word was given about the nature of the meetings.

The departure, however, set many tongues wagging as Mr Sharif travelled in a special plane sent by the kingdom. Also the visit came at the heels of his nomination as the PML-N candidate for the prime minister office.

A couple of days ago, Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Admiral Nawaf Ahmad Al Maliki, along with envoys of around two dozen countries, had called on the chief minister.

Federal Climate Change Minister Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn by phone that various issues of international and national importance would be discussed during the meetings in Saudi Arabia. He termed the visit good news for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, but did not elaborate it.

With speculation rife, PTI wants purpose of visit stated

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, a close aide to the chief minister, seconded Mr Khan’s views and said: “Mian Shahbaz Sharif will definitely discuss issues of national importance — not just of Punjab — with his Saudi hosts. Saudi Arabia has been our trusted brotherly country for decades and we are relying on it in many economic and other matters of international importance.”

A PML-N leader, who requested not to be named, said that for many years the United States used to play its role in Pakistani politics through Saudi Arabia and the chief minister’s visit should be seen in that perspective.

In response to a question, he said the Panama Papers case, besides other issues, would definitely figure in the meetings. He said Shahbaz Sharif presently was not in a position to offer anything to the Saudis but could promise something in the future.

The opposition also senses that to its disadvantage as the visit is being used to build stature of the chief minister as future prime minister of the country.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said they’re concerned at the visit undertaken without any prior notice to any authority or institution. He said people should be taken into confidence about the purpose and objectives of the visit.

The Sharifs used to enjoy good relations with the Saudis who had rescued them from military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2000 and hosted the family during its seven-year exile in Jeddah. But the relations got sour after Islamabad refused to lend Riyadh its forces for the Yemen war.

Some believe that the issue was instrumental in making some Gulf states cooperate with Pakistani authorities in the Panama Papers investigations against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

They also showed their fury by not allowing Mr Sharif to speak at the Arab-Islamic-American summit also attended by US President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif held a consultative meeting in Lahore to finalise schedule for his public meetings in Punjab.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2017



Covid funds controversy
Updated 01 Dec 2021

Covid funds controversy

A COMPREHENSIVE and detailed report by the auditor general of Pakistan on the utilisation of Covid-19 funds by the...
01 Dec 2021

Sindh LG law

THE Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, introduced by the PPP to roll back the Musharraf-era local bodies system in ...
Monster of circular debt
Updated 01 Dec 2021

Monster of circular debt

The crisis facing the energy sector cannot be tackled sustainably without taming the many elephants in the room.
New Covid danger
30 Nov 2021

New Covid danger

The government’s messaging around the coronavirus and the potential threat of Omicron must be reactivated.
Updated 30 Nov 2021

Saudi conditions

DECADES of fiscal profligacy have trapped the country in a situation where it not only has to borrow more money to...
30 Nov 2021

Mental health concerns

THE economic and psychological effects of Covid-19, combined with the issues of joblessness and inflation, have had ...