Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar greets his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, upon his arrival in Islamabad on Monday.—AFP
Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar greets his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, upon his arrival in Islamabad on Monday.—AFP

• Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s two-day visit to lay groundwork for MBS’ visit
• Negotiations to focus on energy, defence, IT sectors; Agreements to be signed during crown prince’s visit

ISLAMABAD: A Saudi delegation led by Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud arrived in Islamabad on Monday to lay the groundwork for the upcoming visit of the Saudi crown prince later this year and to kick-start formal negotiations on potential investment projects between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Upon his arrival, the Saudi delegation — which is on a two-day visit — was welcomed by Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar at the airport. During its stay, the delegation is scheduled to meet President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Dar, Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir, and the apex committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office highlighted that the visit aimed to “expedite follow-up on the understanding reached between Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince and prime minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during their recent meeting in Makkah Al Mukarramah to enhance bilateral economic cooperation.”

During that meeting, the Saudi crown prince pledged to expedite the first tranche of a $5 billion investment in Pakistan. Overall, Saudi Arabia has committed to investing $25 billion in Pakistan over the next five years, focusing on energy, IT, minerals, defence, and agriculture sectors under the Special Investment Facilitation Council.

The Pakistani officials will present specific projects for potential investment to the visiting Saudi officials, who will assess their feasibility. “No MoUs will be signed during this visit. The agreements, once finalised, will be signed during the visit of Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman,” said a source.

“This visit is aimed at lending positive impetus to enhanced bilateral cooperation and a mutually rewarding economic partnership,” the FO said.

Particular interest has been shown in the Reko Diq gold and copper mines, with Barrick Gold Corp revealing last August that there might be involvement from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, given the Pakistan government’s 25 per cent equity in the project.

Further investment opportunities in the mining sector and some state-owned enterprises, which Pakistan is considering privatising, will also be proposed. According to a statement shared by state-run PTV, the delegation will consult on the next phase of investment and implementation.

The visit will also advance the achievement of the SIFC’s objectives and boost the economic recovery of Pakistan.

The Saudi FM is accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes Abdul Rahman Abdul Mohsen Al-Fadley, the minister of water and agriculture; Bandar Ibrahim AlKhorayef, the minister of industry and mineral resources; Badr AlBadr, deputy minister of investment; Mohammad Mazyed Al Towaijri, and other officials.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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