Saudi Arabia is the first major country Pakistan has formally invited to become a partner in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, Minister of Information Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad regarding Prime Minister Imran Khan's two-day visit to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), Chaudhry said that Pakistan's main interest lies in cooperation with Saudi Arabia on matters of trade and security.
"A high-level coordination committee has has been constituted [to look into matters of trade and commerce] and it has the complete backing of the Saudi King, His Highness Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, as well as the Crown Prince [Mohammad bin Salman] and PM Khan," Fawad Chaudhry said.
The information minister announced that high-level delegations from Saudi Arabia and UAE will visit Pakistan to discuss trade and security in October.
The Saudi ministers of treasury and power as well as business leaders will be in the delegation. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will finalise an important economic partnership during this visit, the information minister said.
He said that Saudi Arabia is the first country that Pakistan has invited to become a third partner in CPEC, and the projects that Saudi Arabia will be investing in will be worked out during the Saudi delegation's visit, scheduled for the first week of October.
"We expect major investments from Saudi Arabia," he said.
"Our strategic cooperation has been revitalised. We have assured the Saudi leadership that we will continue to provide security to their country and provide strategic support wherever needed," Chaudhry said.
The information minister said that in Abu Dhabi, the Pakistani delegation was received by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed. Matters of mutual interest were discussed in detail during the meeting," Chaudhry said.
"I should mention here that the relations between Pakistan and UAE and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had been frosty for the past few years, and this visit changed that," the information minister said.
He added that the complications in the procurement of UAE visas and other matters will be resolved soon as the matters had come under discussion during the visit.
"The foreign office will soon send a proposal to UAE and it is expected that these issues will be resolved for the thousands of Pakistanis that are dwelling in the Emirates," Chaudhry assured.
The information minister said that UAE would also help Pakistan in many projects, including the provision of fresh water to Karachi. "Delegations from UAE will come to Pakistan in October to discuss these matters," he said.
"It is important to mention here that His Highness Muhammad bin Zayed has a great standing in GCC and Saudi Arabia, and his support will go a long way for Pakistan," Chaudhry said.
’Nawaz will be in and out of jail’
Moving on to the matter of Nawaz Sharif’s release yesterday, Chaudhry pointed out that the ousted prime minister had only secured bail, not been vindicated of the charges against him.
“Nawaz Sharif will be in and out of jail. The first thing I would like to do is address those people who kept asking why we put the Sharif family's name on the exit-control list (ECL). I guess now they know why we did it: had we not, they could have flown to London yesterday evening, and where would we have looked for them then?"
Chaudhry also commented on the fact that the PML-N and its supporters had praised the judicial system yesterday.
"So if the verdict is in their favour, all is well with the judiciary, and if it is against them, then the system is corrupt?" the minister asked. "The PML-N should decide what their stance is so that their own confusion also subsides."
He added: "I personally think that the judiciary is free and independent."
The information minister also said that Imran Khan does not have a personal feud with the Sharifs, "The government is simply the custodian of the wealth of the Pakistani people and we need to bring the looted wealth back to the country."
"Neither will we let Nawaz and Maryam leave the country nor will we let Ishaq Dar, Hasan and Hussain Nawaz stay abroad for much longer," Chaudhry said, adding that the Sharif family will have to return the Pakistani people's money back to them.
"Those who say that the PM visited Saudi Arabia to cut a deal regarding the Sharifs don't understand how the Saudis' relationship is with Nawaz Sharif. They don't understand where the Sharif family stands with the Saudis," the information minister added.