By Shafek Koreshe
ISLAMABAD, Feb 18 (APP):The visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan, which culminated with inking of agreements to bring 20 billion dollars of investment and formal launch of Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council to focus on economy, security and energy, has given a new dimension to the bilateral ties of two countries.
With a focus on building long lasting economic ties, the Saudi investment announced by the Crown Prince into Pakistan’s economy would help kick start several high profile development projects.
During the two-day visit, the two countries inked seven memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in energy, power, petrochemical, mineral resources and sports, besides agreeing on 10 joint working groups under the Supreme Coordination Council.
“This is for the first time we have a relationship that is developing into other spheres and it is just the beginning,” Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a press statement made out just before the departure of the royal guest at the Nur Khan Air Base.
The Crown Prince reposed full confidence in the leadership of Pakistan under Imran Khan and said, “We feel hope in Pakistan and we believe in Pakistan’s future.” He said he looked forward to the day when Pakistan turned into a big economy in the region owing to its huge potential.
He said the 20 billion dollars investment in the first phase would definitely grow in numbers in the years ahead and would prove beneficial for both the countries. “What we did today was just a beginning,” the Crown Prince said before his departure.
One of the most seemingly small, yet significant developments was the release of 2107 Pakistani prisoners jailed in the Saudi prisons on petty crimes. Prime Minister Imran Khan at the dinner reception on Sunday sought the Crown Prince’s special consideration for the Pakistanis detained in Saudi jails.
“These are the people very close to my heart … they leave their families and do not get to see their families for years,” he said.
Making a special request on behalf of these Pakistanis, he asked the Crown Prince to “look upon them as your own people.”
Within hours the Saudi government ordered release of 2107 prisoners out of 3000. The rest of the cases were also under review, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi later said in a video message.
“Just consider me in Saudi Arabia as the ambassador of Pakistan,” Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman said bringing a sigh of relief amongst the over 2.5 million Pakistanis working in the Kingdom.
“We are developing a roadmap with set targets ahead in areas, including counter-terrorism, economy, people-to-people contacts and culture to further deepen our relations,” Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said here at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Under the Saudi-Pak Supreme Coordination Council, Foreign Minister Qureshi said it would coordinate in security, defence, intelligence sharing and energy, and added the leadership would oversee the implementation of projects.
“The Council is a comprehensive plan with well-laid design which will fulfill the vision of the leaders of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” he said.
A joint statement issued at the conclusion of the visit said the two sides agreed to make use of all available channels to promote bilateral trade, investment and promote communication between the two peoples and businessmen.
The Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, now part of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council, shall facilitate bilateral trade in specific sectors and products. They agreed to further strengthen measures to promote trade, participate in exhibitions and events, and encourage the private sector to take lead in building a strong economic partnership.
According to the details, the Saudi government would provide short, medium and long term investment of over $20 billion for Pakistan. The short term investment will focus on Re-gasified Liquified Natural Gas and power projects, the medium term caters to petro chemical, food and agriculture projects, while the long term investment will look after oil and mineral development.
Another significant achievement of the visit was the downward revision in visa fees for Pakistani visitors and pilgrims. Both the leaders also discussed the tourism potential between the two countries. Imran Khan also asked for immigration facility for pilgrims for Hajj at Pakistani airports.
According to a statement from the Foreign Office, the Saudi side praised Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dialogue offer to India, including the initiative on opening of Kartarpur corridor.
The two countries stressed that dialogue was the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region and to resolve the outstanding issues.
“Both sides strongly condemned the atrocities and human rights violations committed against Muslims around the world.”
“The Prime Minister briefed the Crown Prince on the grave human rights violations in IoK (Indian occupied Kashmir) and the need for resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.”