ISLAMABAD, Feb 1: Khadimul Harmain Sharifain King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz was accorded a historic welcome when he arrived here on Wednesday on a two-day visit to Pakistan.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Leader of Opposition Maulana Falzur Rehman, federal ministers, chief ministers of the provinces and three services chiefs received the Saudi king at the airport.

An entourage of over 300 delegates accompanied the king who arrived in Pakistan following his visit to China, Malaysia and India.

At a special investiture ceremony at the Aiwan-i-Sadr later, President Musharraf conferred on King Abdullah the country’s highest civilian award, Nishan-i-Pakistan, in recognition of his contribution to development of understanding and cooperation between the two countries.

The citation paid rich tribute to the Saudi leader. It expressed the “high esteem in which he is held by the people of Pakistan for his tireless services for the unity and progress of the Ummah.

“King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has been a true and sincere friend of Pakistan. The government and the people of Pakistan deeply cherish the profound consideration and affection that he has always demonstrated for Pakistan and its people.”

The citation said: “Under the sagacious guidance of His Majesty, the relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have grown from strength to strength.

“The generous contribution of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the economic and social uplift of Pakistan is deeply appreciated.

“His Majesty’s steadfast support on issues of vital concern to us will always be remembered by the people of Pakistan.”

The citation recognized the pre-eminent position of the Saudi leader in the Muslim world and observed that his vision and leadership were critical in transforming the Organization of Islamic Conference as a torchbearer for the future of the Ummah.

Earlier at the airport, a 21-gun salute was presented to the Saudi king as he emerged from his plane after it had landed at around 5:10pm. He inspected a guard of honour.

Schoolchildren, cultural troupes and people from different walks of life were present outside the airport to welcome the king.

Camels, falcons and horses of Pakistan’s best species were shown to King Abdullah.

Later, the king was escorted to the Punjab House amid tight security. Traditional folk and cultural dance performances were presented on his arrival at the tastefully decorated Punjab House.

Foolproof security measures were made in the capital on the occasion.

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