ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud would soon be visiting Pakistan during which he would announce a $10 billion investment for establishing an oil refinery in the country.
While criticising the last Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for not availing an opportunity given by the Saudi government for launch of several projects in the country through grant, soft loans and investment, the prime minister said the projects offered by Saudi Arabia had been ignored and put in the doldrums by the last government, but he revived them within 48 hours.
“Saudi Crown Prime Mohammad bin Salman will come to Pakistan soon for $9 to $10 billion investment in oil refinery,” Prime Minister Sharif said while addressing the passing-out parade of the Specialised Training Programme (STP) batch of the National Police Academy (NPA).
He said the crown price expressed willingness to support development projects in Pakistan. “He (crown prince) was ready to do anything for [the betterment of] people of Pakistan,” he added.
Slams PTI govt for ignoring projects; says efforts being made to mend ties with US
The premier’s remarks came days after he concluded a two-day trip to the kingdom during which the two leaders resolved to upgrade bilateral ties and fraternal bonds.
“Earlier this year, a team from the Saudi Development Fund (SDF) visited Pakistan. During a meeting with me, they complained about delays in projects in Pakistan caused by the previous government,” he said.
He said one of the projects was about the establishment of a hospital through Saudi grant, but even that was not availed by the PTI government due to the fear of National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“The hospital was to be completed within six months and some more such projects were to be executed on soft loans but they were kept in cupboards,” he said, adding that he requested the SDF team to stay for another two days in Pakistan and he got sanctioned the stalled projects in 48 hours.
“Trust me, it was very embarrassing. But I asked for some time and got approvals for all the delayed projects within 48 hours,” the PM said.
Mr Sharif said that during his meeting with Prince Salman, he apologised for the delay in execution of the projects. Prince Salman said the people of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had close ties, he quoted him as saying. “We are like one family and I am ready to do everything, […] these were his words. The Saudi prince also told us to work on projects and to facilitate them without any worries,” PM Sharif said, elaborating that the projects included an oil refinery worth $10bn.
The prime minister said in the last few years, Pakistan’s relations with friendly countries had suffered and promised that he was making all-out efforts to mend ties. When Prince Salman visits Pakistan, he said, “I want all of you to welcome him warmly because he comes from a brotherly country”.
He added that he was visiting China soon. “China has been an all-weather friend to us and always stood by Pakistan.”
PM Shehbaz also briefly said there was no reason to “ruin ties with the US”, promising that the government was trying to mend that relationship as well.
At the outset of his address, the prime minister appreciated the sacrifices rendered by the police in protecting the country from terrorism and crime and urged the police force to make the counter-terrorism department of Islamabad an example for other provinces.
About flood survivors, PM Sharif said he was actively working on providing them with relief, and hundreds of billions of rupees were being arranged to fund rehabilitation through international avenues.
Later, Prime Minister Sharif appointed Tariq Mahmood Pasha as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue, with the status of a minister of state, while PM’s focal person Ahmed Jawad quit and left politics.
With the latest addition, the number of federal cabinet members has increased to 75, with 30 SAPMs.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2022