Saudi parliamentarians’ visit to Pakistan an important interaction
After being elected Prime Minister in July last year, Imran Khan’s maiden official visit abroad was to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman visited Pakistan subsequently.
The two countries have developed multifarious bonds over the years. Yet another addition to these fraternal ties is co-operation between their respective parliaments.
Since its establishment in 2000, the Saudi parliament has evolved into an effective role that not only evaluates the performance of various ministries but also advises the Kingdom on vital issues of economic planning, annual budget and foreign policy. Its total membership of 60 in 2000 has increased to 150 today, which includes 30 women.
Last week, a delegation of Saudi Majlis Al Shura came on an official visit to Pakistan led by Dr. Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Shaikh, Chairman of Saudi Shura Council.
There is a general perception that a nominated parliament often rubber stamps the wishes of the political leadership. But in Saudi Arabia, the fact is to the contrary. The Shura Council there audits and evaluates the performance of various ministries and asks them relevant questions. It counsels the government on promotion of moderation without abandoning the pristine principles of Islam. Dr. Mohammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan, had famously said that in democracies people (votes) are counted and not weighed. No wonder, the Saudi Shura Council includes many eminent persons. A large number of them are highly educated at home or abroad. For example, in the fourth Shura Council (2009-2013) 70 percent of the members held doctoral degrees.
Relations between states have to be constantly nurtured. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, because of their special relationship, consult each other regularly on a wide range of issues including regional peace and security.
The parliamentary delegation was received at Islamabad airport by Mr. Asad Qaiser, speaker of the National Assembly. During its visit, the delegation met with the entire top leadership of the country including President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani. Upon arrival in Pakistan, the leader of the Saudi delegation pointed out that promotion of bilateral trade and investment were important subjects to be discussed. This is an indicator of possibly greater interaction between the two economic ministries and private sectors.
Speaker Asad Qaiser, who has been invited to visit Saudi Arabia with a parliamentary delegation later this month, explained to his guests that Pakistan has made great sacrifices in its impressive fight against terrorism. During his visit, Qaiser is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding about co-operation between the parliaments of the two countries. The two parliaments have already established a friendship group which meets in the respective capitals at regular intervals.
Prime Minister Imran Khan apprised the delegation about human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir and the communications blockade there. In a subsequent statement, the head of the Saudi delegation said the Kingdom would support holding an OIC meeting in Islamabad, dedicated to the Kashmir issue. He also called for lifting the curfew imposed in Kashmir.
Relations between states are broadly divided between two categories: ties between governments or leaders, and people to people interaction. The relations between the leaders and governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are time tested and have remained consistent. People to people relations are defined by two million law abiding Pakistanis working in the Kingdom and several others going there for pilgrimages every year. Ties between the two parliaments is a third variant which has gained importance lately. This bond can be very effective as members of parliament are a link between the people and their governments. They have their hands on the public pulse and enjoy better access to leaders.
Relations between states have to be constantly nurtured. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, because of their special relationship, consult each other regularly on a wide range of issues including regional peace and security. Our region is passing through crucial times as we witness unrest in Iran, an upheaval in Iraq and warlike conditions still prevailing in Afghanistan. Mutual consultations at all levels are essential to steer clear of choppy waters and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have their roles cut out for them to keep the region peaceful and stable.
– Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst.