Saudi crown prince arrives in Pakistan amid fanfare, received by PM Khan on red carpet

Updated February 17, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman upon his arrival at Nur Khan Air Base. — Photo courtesy: Arab News
Prime Minister Imran Khan greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman upon his arrival at Nur Khan Air Base. — Photo courtesy: Arab News

Amid heightened security and arrangements in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrived at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi on Sunday.

As he stepped down from the aircraft, the 33-year-old crown prince was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The premier's cabinet members and Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa were also present at the air base to receive the Saudi guest.

PM Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa await to receive MBS. — DawnNewsTV
PM Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa await to receive MBS. — DawnNewsTV

A formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets had escorted the plane of the Saudi royal after its entry into the Pakistani airspace. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ─ known as MBS for short — was given a 21-gun salute upon arrival.

Read: Everything you need to know about the Saudi crown prince's visit

In a break from protocol, Prime Minister Khan personally drove the Saudi crown prince to PM House, where a welcome ceremony was held in his honour.

MBS is given a guard of honour at PM House. — DawnNewsTV
MBS is given a guard of honour at PM House. — DawnNewsTV

The crown prince, who is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Khan, was accorded a red carpet welcome and presented a guard of honour at the PM House.

The prime minister and MBS introduced members of their respective delegations, following which the crown prince planted a sapling.

At a ceremony in the PM House, Pakistan and Saudi officials signed MoUs for bilateral cooperation in a number of areas — a process overseen by Prime Minister Khan and MBS.

This is Prince Mohammad's first state visit to Pakistan since becoming the heir to the throne in 2017.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry welcomed Prince Mohammad on Twitter, saying the crown prince was coming to join his "family and [his] own country".

Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa shakes hands with the Saudi crown prince. — Photo courtesy: ISPR
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa shakes hands with the Saudi crown prince. — Photo courtesy: ISPR

Preparations for a grand welcome

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir landed at Nur Khan Air Base ahead of the crown prince's arrival in a separate airplane. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood was present on the tarmac to welcome his Saudi counterpart.

The twin cities have been decked out in images of the Saudi royal family and banners welcoming the crown prince.

Banners welcoming the Saudi crown prince have been put up all over the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. ─ DawnNewsTV
Banners welcoming the Saudi crown prince have been put up all over the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. ─ DawnNewsTV

A high-powered delegation comprising key ministers and some prominent businessmen, besides members of the royal family, has also arrived with the crown prince for his two-day visit.

The crown prince was due to reach Pakistan on February 16, but his arrival was delayed by a day for unknown reasons.

Islamabad has described 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.

Explore: An overview of Pak-Saudi relations

About an hour ahead of the crown prince's arrival, Finance Minister Asad Umar tweeted that he had held a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih and his team.

During the meeting, a wide range of investment projects worth billions of dollars were discussed, the minister had revealed, adding that MoUs in this regard would be signed later in the day.

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

MBS' plane is seen upon landing at Nur Khan Air Base. — DawnNewsTV
MBS' plane is seen upon landing at Nur Khan Air Base. — DawnNewsTV

Not only the government but the opposition has also hailed the visit of the crown prince as PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari have welcomed the Saudi royal in their statements.

However, opposition parties have lashed out at the federal government for not inviting their leaders to the official reception to be hosted in honour of MBS and termed it an undemocratic and un-parliamentary step.

According to Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, Pakistan's highest civil award, the Nishan-e-Pakistan, will be conferred on the crown prince in an investiture ceremony at the presidency on Monday.

After Pakistan, MBS will travel to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

He is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday.

Two short stops initially scheduled for Sunday and Monday in Indonesia and Malaysia were postponed on Saturday without explanation.

MBS last visited Pakistan in 2016 when he was the country’s defence minister. During a stopover in Islamabad on his way to China, Prince Mohammed had called on the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House and pledged to strengthen bilateral cooperation in different fields.