Eyeing investment deals, Pakistan prepares for Saudi crown prince's visit

Pakistan Forward and AFP


Authorities have beefed up security in Islamabad February 13 ahead of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud's planned visit February 16-17. [Nazar ul Islam]

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan is preparing to welcome Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud for a state visit, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday (February 13).

The two-day visit kicks off Saturday (February 16) and will include a raft of high-level talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan's military chief, as Islamabad hopes to sign various investment deals to prop up its slumping economy.

"During his stay, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will be signing a number of agreements ... related to diverse sectors," Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The two countries will also discuss ways and means to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of co-operation."


Police February 13 examine a car in front of the Prime Minister's Secretariat in Islamabad, three days before the Saudi crown prince's planned visit. [Nazar ul Islam]

Tight security in place

Two five-star hotels have been fully booked by the Saudi delegation while the Kingdom's elite royal guards arrived in Pakistan earlier this week to assist with security arrangements, according to a municipal official in Islamabad.

Pakistan is arranging strict security measures, Dawn reported.

Measures reportedly include shutting down airspace, partially suspending cellphone service, and barring "heavy traffic" from the main routes in Islamabad and Rawalpindi during the crown prince's visit.

Authorities intend to set up more than 1,000 checkpoints in the two cities and to shoot down any drones and other remote-controlled aviation toys.

Former Chief of Army Staff Gen. (ret.) Raheel Sharif, who is the top commander of the Saudi-based Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, met with Khan on Tuesday ahead of the state visit.

During the meeting, they discussed the regional security environment and efforts for peace and stability, according to an official statement.

"The prime minister reiterated his commitment to bring enduring peace and stability in Pakistan while supporting all initiatives for regional peace," the statement said.

Enhancing Pakistan-Gulf ties

Riyadh and Islamabad have been involved for months in talks to iron out details of the deals in time for the crown prince's visit.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to sign a record investment package with Pakistan, aiming to provide welcome relief for its cash-strapped ally.

At the heart of the investment is a reported $10 billion (Rs. 1.4 trillion) refinery and oil complex in the strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

The visit comes just weeks after Pakistan rolled out the red carpet for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shortly after the emirate pledged to provide $3 billion to support Pakistan's economy.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- Islamabad's biggest trading partner in the Middle East -- have offered Pakistan $30 billion (Rs. 4.2 trillion) in investment and loans.

Pakistan has been courting its Gulf allies for months as Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government seeks to stave off a balance of payments crisis and reduce the size of any potential bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

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