ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan drives Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan from Noor Khan Airbase to PM House on Sunday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan drives Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan from Noor Khan Airbase to PM House on Sunday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The red carpet was rolled out for Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of United Arab Emirates armed forces Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan here on Sunday, weeks after the UAE offered $3 billion to support Pakistan’s battered economy.

In a rare gesture, Prime Minister Imran Khan received the crown prince at Noor Khan Airbase and personally drove him to PM House where the official welcoming ceremony was held.

A contingent of armed forces presented a guard of honour to the visiting dignitary, who reviewed the parade. The national anthems of both the countries were played. A formation of JF-17 Thunder aircraft presented an impressive fly-past to the crown prince. He was given a 21-gun salute at the airbase.

Red carpet rolled out for Abu Dhabi crown prince; Imran drives Sheikh Mohammed from Noor Khan Airbase to PM House

Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed turned his private hunting trip into official visit and formalised a $6.2 billion bailout package promised to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to help support the country’s economy.

“The crown prince was in the country for last two days on his annual hunting trip in Rahim Yar Khan, and on conclusion of his private visit he met Prime Minister Imran Khan to further cement bilateral ties between Pakistan and the UAE,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn after the departure of the prince.

He said that during the crown prince’s visit, the UAE had formalised $3bn loan on 2.8 per cent interest rate as well as $3.2bn for supply of oil on deferred payment.

The UAE government had announced the bailout package during Prime Minister Khan’s visit to Dubai in November last year. The two countries had last week finalised the terms and conditions of the $6.2bn support package for Pakistan to help address its balance of payments crisis.

The UAE package is said to be of the same size and terms and conditions as those given by Saudi Arabia. With the new package, Pakistan is expected to save a total of $7.9bn on oil and gas imports from the two friendly countries — accounting for over 60pc of the annual oil import bill worth $12-13bn.

It was the first official visit of the Abu Dhabi crown prince to Pakistan in nearly 12 years and the two sides met for the third time in four months as Prime Minister Khan had visited the UAE twice after assuming office in August to seek economic assistance.

The crown prince was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising cabinet members and senior officials. He was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Prime Minister House, which was followed by a tête-à-tête and delegation-level talks.

Both leaders held wide-ranging talks focusing on all areas of bilateral relations. The prime minister briefed the crown prince on the situation in India-held Kashmir and the plight of Kashmiris.

The two leaders underscored the importance of effectively pursuing various initiatives taken for a strengthened strategic bilateral economic relationship, including working on a long-term investment framework agreement. They also resolved to take all measures to deal with matters related to trade enhancement, and decided to form a task force to achieve this objective.

Prime Minister Khan thanked the UAE for the generous $3bn balance of payments support and noted that this financial support showed the UAE’s continued commitment and friendship that remained steadfast over the years. He also welcomed the UAE’s interest in investing in Pakistan’s oil and gas, logistics, ports and construction sectors.

Both leaders expressed the hope that the forthcoming meeting of the Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission, to be co-chaired by foreign ministers of the two countries in Abu Dhabi in February, would play a pivotal role in chalking out a comprehensive roadmap and expediting approval of pending agreements and memoranda of understanding.

They expressed satisfaction over the ongoing defence and security cooperation and resolved to explore further collaboration in the areas of training, joint exercises and defence production. Both leaders strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and expressed their resolve to work closely to root out this scourge.

The crown prince recognised the efforts and unparalleled sacrifices made by Pakistan to eliminate terrorism and extremism.

Prime Minister Khan thanked the UAE leadership and its people for their continued commitment to Pakistan’s socioeconomic development and eradication of polio from the country.

In order to counter white-collar crimes, including money laundering, the two leaders directed the authorities concerned to expedite the finalisation of a mutual legal assistance agreement.

The prime minister briefed the crown prince about the efforts Pakistan was making to support and facilitate Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process. He also appreciated the role of the UAE in hosting reconciliation talks in Abu Dhabi.

The two leaders agreed to work closely for a lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Delegation-level talks

During the delegation-level talks, Prime Minister Khan led the Pakistani team comprising Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua. Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed led the UAE side.

Finance Minister Umar told the media after the meeting that the talks focused on a long-term economic cooperation between the two sides as Pakistan wanted enhanced trade and investment from the brotherly country instead of asking for bailout package.

“The world’s biggest investors are in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and we want to attract them for investment in Pakistan,” he said, adding: “These bailout packages from the UAE and Saudi Arabia are mere breathers so that Pakistan can come out of the prevailing crisis, but we are eying on long-term measures that include more trade opportunities and investments in Pakistan.”

The minister said the issue of outstanding dues to be paid by UAE firm Etisalat to Pakistan was also discussed.

In July 2005, Etisalat had bought 26pc shares in the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited.

“Besides fresh investment deals, we also want to remove problems in previous investments,” Mr Umar.

Talking about reports of another mini-budget to be announced soon, he said it would not be a mini-budget but implementation of the recommendations made by five committees of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) formed by the PTI soon after coming to power. “We do not want to wait for the next budget for implementation of those beneficial suggestions that will help enhance trade and investment in the country,” he added.

Unprecedented foolproof security clamp was put in place on arrival of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in Islamabad. More than 4,500 police personnel were deployed and Metro Bus service was temporary halted.

Around 150 well-trained snipers were deployed on rooftops of buildings on the VVIP route and 400 commandoes of the Rawalpindi police in their respective jurisdictions. Link roads along the VVIP route were plugged with barbed wires and the Blue Area was blocked for traffic.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2019

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