ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa on Monday spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman by telephone.

“His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, has received a phone call from Chief of the Pakistani Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa,” the Saudi foreign ministry said.

“During the call, the Chief of the Pakistani Army was reassured about the health of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” according to the Saudi statement.

King Salman, 86, was on May 8 admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Jeddah for undergoing medical tests.

MbS thanked Gen Bajwa for his “sincere feelings”.

The telephone conversation took place against the backdrop of Pakistan’s aggravating economic crisis. Islamabad wants Riyadh to double its $4 billion assistance package, which includes the oil facility.

The Saudi assistance, if materialises, could provide a lifeline to the struggling government, whose future increasingly looks uncertain because of economic crisis.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who visited Saudi Arabia last month, had asked the Saudi leadership to double the oil financing facility and additional deposits for dealing with economic challenges, including high inflation, sliding foreign exchange reserves, a widening current account deficit and a depreciating currency.

The statement did not say if the two discussed Pakistan’s expectation about financial assistance. It only said that during the call, the two leaders reviewed cooperation in the military field between the two countries.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2022

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