Saudi crown prince’s visit delayed by day

Updated February 16, 2019

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ISLAMABAD: Billboards showing portraits of President Arif Alvi, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan adorn a road on Friday as authorities prepare to welcome the crown prince, who is due on Sunday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Billboards showing portraits of President Arif Alvi, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan adorn a road on Friday as authorities prepare to welcome the crown prince, who is due on Sunday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: The arrival of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the federal capital on his first two-day official visit to Pakistan has been delayed by a day for unknown reasons.

Earlier, the crown prince was due in Islamabad on Saturday (today) but, according to the Foreign Office, a slight change has been made in his schedule and now he is coming on Sunday.

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Islamabad is describing 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.

Not only the government but the opposition has also hailed the visit of the crown prince as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shah­baz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari have welcomed the crown prince in their statements.

Unprecedented security measures are being taken for the visit of the crown prince as twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi will be sealed for two days (on Sunday and Monday) and mobile service will remain suspended there.

Mohammad bin Salman now arriving on Sunday; $21bn MoUs likely to be signed during two-day stay

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

Media reports said the government had reserved several hotels for the big Saudi delegation. As many as 750 rooms have been booked in eight Islamabad hotels for the visiting delegation.

Prime Minister Khan and the crown prince will co-chair meetings of various joint working groups on trade, investment, energy, science, information and media.

The prince will be accompanied by a delegation of royals, key ministers and leading businessmen.

Twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been put on high alert and Section 144 has been imposed in the capital with airspace shut down arrangements on Feb 17 and 18. According to police, 1,000 checkpoints have been set up across the twin cities, five in the limits of each police station.

As many as 300 Land Cruisers have been reserved for the visiting delegation and a gym has been set up in PM House for the crown prince.

Saudi investment

At a time when the country is struggling with the dwindling foreign exchange reserves, Pakistan expects a highest-ever investment announcement to the tune of about $21 billion during the visit of the Saudi prince.

Along with the crown prince, about 35 top Saudi investors will also visit Pakistan. The business delegation will have a business to business meeting with local businessmen on Monday, according to Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha.

The Saudi businessmen are interested in investment, particularly in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Razak Dawood said Saudi investments would be on commercial basis and would have no government liabilities.

The biggest investment, he said, would be on setting up an oil refinery in Balochistan. However, he said it was unclear whether the products of the refinery would be consumed in Pakistan or exported.

The adviser said four MoUs would be signed between the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The MoUs relate to the establishment of an oil refinery and petrochemical sector, renewable energy projects, mineral and mining sector and financing arrangements through the Saudi Fund for Development.

Mr Dawood said the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council had been established which would be co-chaired by the Saudi crown prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said the council was aimed at uniting efforts and raising level of coordination between the two countries to achieve the mutually agreed political, economic and development objectives.

“Three pillars -- the political and security pillar, the economic pillar and the social and cultural pillar -- have been created and they would be managed by their own steering committees,” he said.

The adviser said that Saudi investors were interested in Halal food, hotels and livestock.

He said that the visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman would show investors and businessman around the world that Pakistan was the best investment and trade destination.

Opposition hails visit

PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif has welcomed the Saudi prince’s visit to Pakistan and lauded his commitment to help the country in these most testing times.

He said the prince had built further on the golden tradition of unshakeable Pakistan-Saudi Arabia ties. He said the entire country would welcome the prince will fervour.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said his party and the Bhutto family welcomed the crown prince and hoped that his visit would further cement bilateral relations.

He said Saudi Arabia was a respected and old friend of Pakistan which had always supported Pakistan and its people in difficult times.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2019