Crown prince will be first state guest to stay at Pakistani PM house

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Jeddah on Sept. 19, 2018. (SPA/File)
Updated 16 February 2019

Crown prince will be first state guest to stay at Pakistani PM house

  • Information minister says reception for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Presidential Palace on Feb 16 evening 
  • Crown Prince and Prime Minister Khan will co-chair meetings of various joint working groups on Feb 17
ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be the first state guest to stay at the official residence of the prime minister of Pakistan, information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday.
The crown prince is due to arrive in Islamabad for a two-day visit on the afternoon of February 16. He is expected to sign a range of agreements worth up to $15 billion dollars, including for three power plants in Pakistan’s Punjab province and an oil refinery and petrochemical complex to be set up in the coastal city of Gwadar in southwestern Baluchistan. 
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have long maintained strong ties and Riyadh has repeatedly come to Islamabad’s financial rescue. Most recently, last year, it offered Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis. 
Chaudhry told Arab News that the crown prince would arrive in Islamabad on Saturday, February 16 and stay overnight at the Prime Minister House. 
Outlining the prince’s agenda, the information minister said he would attend a reception at the Presidential Palace on the evening of Saturday. 
“A reception will be hosted in his honour at the president house and will be attended by the [Pakistani] prime minister, army chief, all top ministers, bureaucrats and important personalities in the country as well as members of the royal entourage,” Chaudhry said. 
On Sunday, he said, Prime Minister Imran Khan and the crown prince would co-chair meetings of various joint working groups including on trade and investment, energy, science, culture and information and media.
The foreign office said in a statement that the crown prince would call on the president of Pakistan, the prime minister and the army chief separately. 
The statement said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign a number of agreements and memorandums of agreement during the crown prince's visit, including in the fields of investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports.
"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 cooperation," the statement said. 
The crown prince will leave Pakistan on February 17 and continue on wards with visits to India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Responding to a question about reports that the prince would address a joint session of parliament, Chaudhry said: “That is highly unlikely.”
Giving details of security arrangements made for the visit, the information minister said the crown prince’s “own security team” would guard the Prime Minister House during his stay there but Pakistani security officials would also be on duty.
Chaudhry said Islamabad would be on “high security alert” throughout the prince’s visit and the Pakistan army and paramilitary Rangers would be in charge of keeping the capital safe. Saudi security and intelligence officials are also expected to be present not just at the PM House but across Islamabad during the two days the crown prince is there. 
As of Monday night, 350 people in the prince’s “advance media and security team” had already arrived in Islamabad and another 800 were expected in the next few days, Chaudhry said. Vehicles to be used by the crown prince would arrive via special flight on Friday, while the cars and security equipment of his entourage would also be shipped in. At least 80 containers of luggage and other paraphernalia are expected to arrive in Islamabad to cater to the needs of the royal entourage. 
Saudi Ministers accompanying the crown prince are also expected to hold meetings with their counterparts "to discuss bilateral cooperation in their respective fields," the foreign office said, adding that businessmen of the two countries would also meet to discuss opportunities for collaboration in the private sector.
"A delegation of Pakistan’s Senate will also call on the Crown Prince to discuss ways to enhance parliamentary cooperation between the two countries," the statement said.


Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

Updated 18 February 2020

Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

  • 14 people have died since Sunday night, 350 have been hospitalized
  • Pakistan State Oil temporarily closes its storage terminals in Kiamari

KARACHI: Authorities on Tuesday said that soybean dust was the likely cause of toxic gas that killed 14 and left over 300 others sick in Pakistan’s portside city of Karachi since Sunday night.
“Preliminary report has been submitted by experts at Khi (Karachi) Uni (university) which suggests that Kiamari incident happened due to over exposure of soybean dust which is known to have also caused similar incidents in other parts of the world,” Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson of the Sindh government tweeted late Tuesday.
“This soybean is in a shipment docked at Khi Port,” he added.
The report by the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), which was sent to Karachi’s commissioner and is available to Arab News, read that the deaths were caused soybean dust exposure.
“The symptoms due to exposure to soybean dust (aeroallergens) may be considered as the possible cause,” the report stated, urging bronchodilator and anti-histamine treatment for the patients and extreme care while uploading soybean containers.
The report said that soybean dust exposure-related epidemics have been reported in other parts of the world with associated morbidity and mortality.

Earlier, a government source told Arab News that the incident occurred during unloading of soybeans on Saturday evening at berth 12 of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) after MV Hercules arrived from the US. The unloading created dust which made its way toward Jackson area of Karachi’s Kiamari municipality.
According to sources, MV Hercules was fumigated on Jan. 8 at Cargill grain reserve Los Angeles, US after loading onboard with 56 degree aluminum phosphide “using one of approved methods.”
The breathing of aluminum phosphide can irritate the nose, throat and lungs causing coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath whereas repeated exposure may damage the lungs, kidneys and liver. Aluminum phosphide reacts with water or moisture to release highly toxic and flammable phosphine gas, the sources said, adding that “It is likely that exposure to particles of aluminum phosphide may have created problems for individuals passing by at that time and such unfortunate incident.”
Meanwhile, health officials said the death toll from the poisonous gas leak has reached 14.
“At least 14 people have died in four different hospitals of the city,” Dr. Zafar Mehdi, spokesperson of the health department said, adding that over 350 others have been impacted and needed treatment.
Officials at Ziauddin Hospital, where most of the affected persons were brought, said they received over a hundred patients on Sunday night, of whom four died.
“There was lull during the day and then again over a hundred visited the hospital, indicating that the gas impacts go high during humidity at night,” Amir Shehzad, spokesperson of the health facility, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) said his company had closed operations at Kiamari storage terminals.
“PSO has temporarily closed its storage terminals in the Kiamari, Karachi due to health and safety reasons. The operations on this location will resume as soon as the area is deemed safe for the company’s staff and contractors to operate.”
“There will be as such no impact of this temporary closure on supply of POL products within Karachi, and in upcountry locations. PSO has sufficient stock available, with backup supply arrangements already in place to ensure an uninterrupted supply of the POL products,” spokesperson told Arab News.