Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan

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Mohammed bin Salman and Imran Khan at a banquet held in the crown princes honor. (SPA)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
Updated 18 February 2019

Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan

  • Consider me ‘the ambassador of Pakistan’ in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman tells Imran Khan
  • Pakistani PM: Islamabad, Riyadh have elevated their relationship to ‘level where it has never been before’

ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to consider him the “ambassador of Pakistan” in Saudi Arabia moments after the two countries signed key memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion on Sunday in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing.

The MoUs were signed by Pakistani and Saudi ministers on Sunday night in the presence of the crown prince and Khan.

The crown prince kicked off a rare Asian tour with a two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday evening. After Islamabad, he will travel to India and China.

He was received by Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as he landed in Rawalpindi. The crown prince was given a 21-gun salute upon arrival.

A formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets had escorted his plane after its entry into Pakistani airspace.

Khan broke protocol by personally driving the crown prince from the Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi on the outskirts of Islamabad.

On a personal request by Khan to the crown prince to allow Hajj pilgrims to go through immigration procedures in Pakistan and to look into the conditions of Pakistani workers, particularly prisoners, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said the Kingdom will do “whatever we can do” to oblige Islamabad.

 

“Just consider me the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia,” the crown prince said amid applause by Saudi and Pakistani ministers, journalists and businessmen present at the banquet at the Prime Minister House.

The crown prince said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had signed investment MoUs worth $20 billion.

“It’s big for phase one, and definitely it’s going to grow … and be beneficial for both countries,” he added.

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future, and we want to be sure that we are part of that.”

Earlier, Khan and the crown prince had a one-on-one meeting at the Prime Minister House, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, co-chaired by the two leaders.

The council was formed “to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation,” the Prime Minister House said in a statement on Sunday night.

“Under the Supreme Coordination Council, a Steering Committee and Joint Working Groups have been set up at Ministerial and Senior Officials levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective Ministers.”

Khan and the crown prince will co-chair sessions of the joint working groups on Monday. “For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” Khan said in a speech delivered after the signing of the MoUs.

“Saudi Arabia has always been a friend for Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been a friend when Pakistan has needed friends,” he added.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are taking their relationship to a level where it has never been before.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia 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.

Speaking about the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of energy and infrastructure projects that forms a key node in Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond, Khan expressed hope that Saudi Arabia will participate with Islamabad in what he considered an “exciting future.”

He said: “We have CPEC, we have links with China, we have very close connectivity with probably … the biggest market in the world, which is China. So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us. It’s an exciting future.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office earlier thanked the crown prince for “generously” reducing Saudi visa fees at Khan’s request.

The Saudi Embassy in Islamabad announced on Friday that non-pilgrimage visit visa fees for single entry has been lowered from SR2,000 ($533) to SR338, while the fee for a multiple-entry visa has been reduced from SR3,000 to SR675. The new fee structure came into effect on Feb. 15.


Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

Updated 08 December 2019

Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

  • The attack, in which a Saudi gunman killed three Americans, is viewed as an act that does not represent Saudi people
  • The OIC has said the attacker did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people

From the king and top-level Saudi government officials to everyday Saudi citizens, all are united in condemning the attack on a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, calling it as “un-Islamic” and barbaric.

The shooting of three Americans by a Saudi gunman was an individual attack that does not represent the Kingdom’s people, it has been widely  stressed. 

For decades, many Saudis have lived in the US for work or attended universities across many states, becoming their own ambassadors. 

Nedda Akhonbay, a communications professional working in Jeddah, expressed her sadness when she heard the news.

“My condolences go out to the families of the victims as I hope they find peace in their lives after facing such a tragedy. As a Saudi-American and having spent many formative years in the US and made friends who became like family, I thought this attack was very close to home and I hope both people work together to get past it.”

“As a student who lived in the States, I never faced any problems for being a Muslim,” said Alaa Sendi, an American-Saudi lecturer working in Jeddah University.

Having obtained a PhD in electrical engineering, Dr. Nazih Al-Othmani lived between the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania for ten years in the late 1990s and was in the US during the 9/11 attacks. He recalled how Americans understood that such atrocious attacks never represented a community, and this one was no exception.

“The tragic event that took place yesterday does not represent us, this attack is unacceptable regardless of any reason and no sane person can ever accept it,” he said. “I lived in the States for many years, I was also there on 9/11, and made many American friends throughout my time there. They stood by us, they helped us, protected us and our relationship was very civil and courteous. We need to stand together to combat this dangerous tendency that can be found in every community.”

The attack at the US naval station in Pensacola, Florida, was the second incident at an American military base in this week, following another shooting at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Wednesday. (AFP)

Many Saudis are angered over the actions of this one individual. Dr. Al-Othmani expressed his concerns about those who would take advantage of the situation and try to point a finger at Saudis.

“Though right-wingers will take advantage of the event and attack Saudi Arabia, I don’t believe many Americans will see it that way. Americans are aware enough to differentiate between the nationality of an individual and his actions,” he said.

Al-Othmani recommends that Saudi students communicate, cooperate and extend a hand of friendship to their respective communities.

In the decades of friendship and cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia, many Americans have come to work in the Kingdom and some have made it their home. 

Dr. Alia Mitchell, vice dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, is an American citizen who has been a Muslim for more than 30 years and has lived in the Kingdom for more than 20 years. She has chosen to live in the Kingdom as she sees the beauty of the religion interwoven into society, one that she believes is not represented by the shooter. 

“When something tragic that happens like this, it’s on the individual,” she said. “it doesn’t go back to the community or the society.

“I’m still sickened and mostly very, very saddened with this tragedy,” said Melanie H. “I’ve a son the same age as the shooter and can’t imagine what the pain and grief his actions would do to me as a parent. To learn that your son has caused so much hell… that he has taken others’ lives.”

She said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years and I have experienced Saudi’s hospitality, warmth — nothing like what I imagined or expected before arriving. It isn’t perfect but then what country or nation is?” 

“Now that the country has opened its doors to the world, people really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover especially when criminals like this shooter make such a false, misleading cover.” 

Melanie H continued: “Do not judge a people by an individual — that’s what we Americans are all about. No judging.”


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• King Salman leads Saudi official condemnations of Florida attack

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 Florida shooting ‘nothing to do with gunman’s family, tribe’


“This crime does not represent us as Saudis,” said Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, minister of Islamic Affairs, on his personal Twitter account. “We reject such criminal acts and we sympathize with the injured and the families of the victims. It is a horrible crime and a dishonest act.

“We condemn crimes anywhere and anytime, and we stress our complete rejection of such horrible criminal acts which Islam forbids.”

Saudi scholar and Imam of Quba Mosque in Madinah Saleh Al-Maghamsi shared the same notion. He said: “This incident should be stripped away from religion and from the country to which whoever committed this criminal act is affiliated. The Shariah does not approve of this act for it violates the texts of the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet, which is based on the principle of no bloodshed. Logic also does not approve of this action.” 

Opinion

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The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the aggressor did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people and all Muslims who believe in tolerance, moderation and coexistence.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia also condemned the shooting incident in Florida and called it a heinous crime. 

Describing it as a crime against humanity, the senior scholars stressed that such actions were against the true teachings of Islam. They said that the Saudi people will continue to uphold their noble values and contribute to the progress and prosperity of the world and humanity.