Saudi-Pak Ties: “One of the closest relationships in the world”

Prime Minister Imran Khan Calls on King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz on Sept. 10, 2018. (SPA)
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Updated 13 June 2020

Saudi-Pak Ties: “One of the closest relationships in the world”

  • Saudi Arabia was among the first countries to recognize Pakistan after its independence
  • Pakistan is a steadfast defender of the Kingdom with its troops stationed on Saudi soil

ISLAMABAD: The former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal once described relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as “probably one of the closest relationships in the world between any two countries.”

The intimate friendship goes back decades. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the inhabitants of present-day Pakistan predates the existence of the south Asian Muslim nation of 208 million people.

Then Crown Prince Saud bin Abdul Aziz laid the foundation of Pakistan-Saudi relations way back in 1940 when he led a high-profile delegation to Karachi, accompanied by five of his brothers, three of whom later became Saudi kings. Aziz was hosted by Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah weeks after his [All-India] Muslim League party passed the Lahore Resolution asking for a separate Muslim majority nation state which ultimately carved the way for the partition of British India in 1947.

Next, in 1943 on Jinnah’s appeal, Saudi Arabia gave £10,000 for those affected by famine in Bengal. Then in 1946, when Jinnah’s Pakistan Movement delegation visited the United Nations to ask for an independent homeland and faced stiff resistance from the Indian National Congress, it was Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz who intervened and made sure the movement’s representatives engaged with UN delegates.

In 1947, Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to recognize Pakistan after it gained independence from british rule, and in 1951, the two countries signed a treaty of friendship. In 1954, King Saud laid the foundation stone in Karachi of a housing scheme named after him.

Pakistani President Ayub Khan’s voyage to Riyadh in 1960 laid the foundation for a convergence of strategic interests, following which Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan during both the 1965 and 1971 wars with India. A bilateral defense cooperation protocol was also framed during Saudi defense and aviation minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz’s visit to Pakistan in the late sixties.

Two years following his ascent to the throne, King Faisal in 1966 made a historic visit to Pakistan, during which the government named two roads, an airbase, a city, and a mosque after him. In 1976, the foundations for Islamabad’s famed Faisal mosque were laid by King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz himself.

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came into power and sought Saudi financial assistance to level the playing field amid growing threats from India’s nuclear aspirations, the Kingdom obliged and between 1973 and 1980, Pakistan was a major recipient of Saudi financial aid of up to $502 million.

Pakistan also stationed troops in Saudi Arabia during the 1979 Iran-Iraq war and has remained a steadfast defender of the Kingdom. During the Gulf war too, Pakistan sent soldiers to protect the two Islamic holy sites.

In 1998, after Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, Riyadh defied global pressure and provided a large quantity of oil on deferred payments to help Pakistan stay afloat.

Since then, several Saudi leaders have visited Pakistan, including King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz. Several agreements were also inked in 2014 during the visit of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud.

This month, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is expected to visit Pakistan with a “record investment package” including a $10 billion oil refinery in the deepwater port of Gwadar.

Pakistani stocks jump over 2% as government ends fuel price freeze

Updated 13 sec ago

Pakistani stocks jump over 2% as government ends fuel price freeze

  • Pakistan announced it would hike fuel prices to resume receiving aid from a $6 billion IMF package
  • Subsidies were announced by ex-PM Imran Khan in his last days in power against IMF recommendations

KARACHI: Pakistani stocks jumped more than 2% shortly after opening on Friday, reacting positively to an overnight decision by the government to end a months-old freeze on fuel prices.
Pakistan late on Thursday announced it would hike fuel prices so that it can resume receiving aid from a $6 billion package signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2019.
"The market is reacting to the government's move to withdraw fuel subsidies," Saad Hashemy, executive director at BMA Capital Management, told Reuters. "It shows the government's resolve to address teething issues in the economy and will pave the way for the IMF program and other funding sources."
Fuel prices rose 20% on Friday, causing long lines to form at filling stations as the news spread. The new price of petrol will be 179.86 rupee per litre and diesel will be 174.15 rupee.
Reuters reported earlier on Thursday that the IMF and Islamabad had reached a deal to release over $900 million in funds, once Pakistan removed the fuel subsidies and hiked prices, according to a Pakistani source directly involved in talks in Qatar that concluded on Wednesday.
The IMF has said that considerable progress had been made in the talks, but emphasised the urgency for Pakistan to remove fuel and energy subsidies to get back on track.
The benchmark stock index was 2.26% higher at 0544 GMT, according to exchange data.
Pakistan's currency also rebounded against the dollar on Friday, traders said, following days of declines amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves and speculation that the IMF deal was in trouble.

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

Updated 27 May 2022

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

  • Hajj flights to take off from eight Pakistani cities and land in Jeddah and Madinah
  • Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 as one million people join this year’s Hajj

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will start this year’s Hajj flight operations from May 31, PIA announced on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia lets up to one million people join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding it to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight COVID restrictions.

Pilgrims to Makkah this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement last month. Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 and the maximum age limit of travellers is 65.

“PIA's flight operation will continue with 297 flights from May 31 to August 13," Pakistan’s national flag carrier said in a statement. “Hajj operation will be carried out from 8 cities of Pakistan, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.”

PIA said the Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia would fly to Jeddah and Madinah.

Saudi Arabia has said participants from abroad must present a recent negative COVID PCR test, and health precautions will be observed.

Last year, the kingdom limited the annual Hajj, one of Islam's five main pillars, to 60,000 domestic participants, compared to the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

Updated 27 May 2022

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

  • Nearly 3,000 people have benefitted from the knowledge portal set up last year
  • New online gateway aims to facilitate technology transfer from China

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI) said on Thursday nearly 3,000 people had benefitted from a knowledge portal established last year to facilitate businesses in the two countries and was now planning to set up an online technology gateway.

The chamber was established in 2013 to promote investment and commerce between Pakistan and China and protect the interests of business entities in both countries.

The two regional allies had also launched the multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the same year under which Beijing pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan.

“The PCJCCI initiated the first-ever knowledge portal on October 7, 2021, and almost 3,000 people have benefited through this portal so far,” the chamber’s president Wang Zihai told Arab News in a written reply from Beijing.

The knowledge portal contains information on projects and economic collaboration between the two countries and offers registration facilities to companies along with immigration information.

After the "success" of the portal, Zihai said, a Pak-China technology gateway would now be established.

Ehsan Chaudhry, the chamber’s senior vice president, said the gateway would transfer technology no longer used in China to Pakistan to be used for the South Asian country’s industrial requirements.

“The acquisition of appropriate technology from China in the field of renewable energy and alternative sources of energy, such as solar, nanotechnology, wind power, run of the river power plants, will be our top priority,” he told Arab News.

“Pakistan can import traditional machinery from China at a low cost because our labors are much friendly with low-key advanced technology,” he added, without sharing when the technology gateway would be operational. 

Salahuddin Hanif, the chamber’s secretary general, said the joint Pakistan-China body had initiated various Chinese language courses to remove communication barrier between the two nations.

“Around 25,000 students actively participated in these courses,” he told Arab News. “We have also compiled and published various books for making the learning process more comprehensive for Pakistani people.”

Hanif said the chamber was working to encourage Chinese industrialists to collaborate with Pakistan, adding that new courses would soon be announced on the knowledge portal.

“We are going to launch various courses very soon to convey contemporary knowledge and information related to various sectors," Hanif said, "like electronic and automotive advancement, insurance, agriculture, textiles, shoe manufacturing, chemicals, battery recycling plant, and real estate advisory.”

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

Updated 26 May 2022

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

  • Finance minister Miftah Ismail says the government has increased petroleum prices by Rs30 per liter
  • Pakistan hopes to reach a staff level agreement with the IMF for the resumption of $6 billion loan facility

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail announced on Thursday the government had decided to increase fuel prices by Rs30 per liter after his negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of a $6 billion loan package remained inconclusive due to subsidies on petroleum products.

The subsidies were part of a relief package provided by former prime minister Imran Khan in February amid rising inflation which he said was going to cost over $2 billion between April and June 2022. The IMF had objected over his decision while refusing to release the next loan installment of about $1 billion.

Pakistan desperately needs external financing to boost its falling foreign exchange reserves which, at the current level of $10 billion, can barely cover two months of import payments. The new government has been seeking the IMF support since assuming the political power of the country, though it remained reluctant to meet the stringent terms and conditions of the international lending agency.

“The government has decided to protect the poor and its details will soon be announced by the prime minister himself in an address to the nation,” Ismail told a news conference in Islamabad. “I have only come here to tell you that the government has decided that from Friday, 27th of May, the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene oil and light diesel oil will be increased by Rs30 per liter.”

He said that the new price of petrol and diesel would be Rs179.86 and Rs174.15 per liter, respectively.

Ismail hoped the government’s decision would help stabilize markets.

“It will also stabilize the rupee and improve the situation at the stock market,” he continued. “Most importantly, it will bring back some balance within the economy.”

The finance minister maintained it was a difficult decision since increased fuel prices would to negatively impact the government’s political capital.

However, he added it was the right move for the country since it was important for everyone to know that the new administration was truly determined to fix Pakistan’s economic woes.

Responding to a question, he said he was optimistic that Pakistan would soon reach a staff level agreement with the IMF.

The finance minister discussed the possibility of increasing the size of the loan by another $2 billion for an extended period of one year during his meetings with IMF officials in Washington in April.

He later told journalists in the US that the resumption of IMF loan program would also help unlock more funding from multilateral donors.

In the absence of a breakthrough in recent talks with the international lending agency in Doha, however, Pakistan’s national currency hit another all-time low of Rs202.01 against the greenback on Thursday due to increasing demand for the US dollar for import payments.

Pakistani economists criticized the government for not taking tough decisions earlier in the day, saying its indecisiveness was further aggravating the economic crisis.

“With reserves continuing to slide and no signal from the government that it is willing to take tough measures, Pakistan faces a situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control,” Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Arab News. “Once herd mentality kicks in, it will be even more painful to stabilize the economy.”

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

Updated 26 May 2022

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

  • Pakistan crashed out of Asia Cup after India’s convincing 16-0 win over Indonesia
  • The ongoing tournament in Jakarta serves as qualifier for next year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday failed to qualify for the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) World Cup 2023 after crashing out of the Asia Cup in the wake of India’s emphatic 16-0 victory over Indonesia, reported the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency.

Once counted among the best hockey teams in the world, Pakistan have won the world cup four times in 1971, 1978, 1981 and 1994.

The last world cup was won by Belgium in 2018.

The green shirts crashed out of the next year’s hockey tournament after they failed to enter the super four stage of the Asia Cup currently played in Jakarta.

“Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia have sealed the FIH World Cup 2023 berths,” the APP said. “India qualify as hosts and Pakistan are out of the race.”

Losing 2-3 to Japan, Pakistan’s fate in the tournament was sealed after India decimated Indonesia to advance into the final four stage of the cup, pushing Pakistan out on goal difference.

Pakistan also failed to qualify for the FIH grand tournament next year since the Asia Cup served as its qualifier.

The green shirts began their Asia Cup bid with a 1-1 draw against India. They thumped Indonesia 13-0 in their next game before losing to Japan.