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Raheel meets Bajwa ahead of Saudi crown prince’s visit

February 12, 2019

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RAWALPINDI: Retired Gen Raheel Sharif, who heads the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ on Monday.—White Star
RAWALPINDI: Retired Gen Raheel Sharif, who heads the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, meets Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ on Monday.—White Star

ISLAMABAD: With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman due in Pakistan later this week, the pre-visit activities have increased in Islamabad and neighbouring Rawalpindi.

Top commander of Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) retired Gen Raheel Sharif on Monday met Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Gen Sharif, who is considered to be close to Mohammad bin Salman, had arrived in Islamabad on Sunday leading an IMCTC delegation ahead of the crown prince’s two-day trip.

The crown prince is expected to reach Islamabad on Feb 16. This would be his first visit to Pakistan after becoming the crown prince in June 2017. He will later travel to Malaysia before going to Delhi on Feb 19. His visit is being given extraordinary importance because of the investment commitments he is expected to make. Riyadh is planning to set up a massive refinery in Gwadar with an investment of $10 billion — the biggest by the kingdom in Pakistan to date.

Prince Mohammad’s personal staff and security personnel have already landed in Islamabad

The investment pledges, which would follow $6bn in balance of support and oil on deferred payment facility, are being seen as a lifeline for Pakistan’s struggling economy.

The Inter-Services Public Relations said that “matters of mutual interest including regional peace and stability” were discussed during Gen Sharif’s meeting with Gen Bajwa. “COAS appreciated the efforts of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition towards regional peace and security,” the ISPR added.

Military sources say that following intensification of bilateral military cooperation between Pakistan and the kingdom, Islamabad is also readying to enhance its participation in the IMCTC.

Pakistan had in February last year agreed to deploy more soldiers “on training and advice mission”. These troops were in addition to the nearly 1,600 who were already deployed there. The size of fresh deployment was never disclosed.

Pak-Saudi military cooperation is based on bilateral security cooperation agreement of 1982, under which Pakistan committed to assisting the kingdom with training and defence production capabilities.

Meanwhile, an advance team of Saudi crown prince’s trip, comprising his personal staff and security personnel, has also landed in Islamabad along with his personal use items.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019