Pakistan, Saudi Arabia express satisfaction over progress on oil sector projects

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki met Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar at the Petroleum Division in Islamabad on January 29, 2020. (Photo Courtesy: Petroleum Division)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia express satisfaction over progress on oil sector projects

  • Officials of the two countries exchange views on diplomatic and economic relations
  • The government invites Saudi business houses to explore Pakistan’s diverse investment potential

KARACHI: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on mega oil refinery and other joint projects in the oil sector of the South Asian country.

Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki met with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar in Islamabad and discussed the bilateral relations between the two countries, according to a statement issued by the Petroleum Division.

“The Ambassador was upbeat on the current trajectory of the bilateral relationship between both the countries and described the relationship between both Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as ‘brotherly, fraternal and based on solid foundations,’” the statement said.

“This, the Ambassador said, is also reflected in the frequent high-level of exchanges at the leadership level,” the statement added.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement early last year to set up a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery project and a $1 billion petrochemical complex in Gwadar.

Both countries during the official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed seven investment deals worth $21 billion that included an oil refinery, mineral development, two power plants, and food and agriculture projects.

Pakistan also invited Saudi business houses on Wednesday to explore the diverse investment potential of the country.

Babar shared with the ambassador aspects of the reform process being carried out in Pakistan’s energy sector. “Pakistan has recently emerged as a leading reformer in the World Bank Ease of Doing business rankings and countries are looking at it as a favorable investment destination,” he told the Saudi envoy.

The mega oil refinery with the capacity of around 300,000 BPD is expected to take five to six years for commissioning.

The project is also expected to save Pakistan’s $2-3 billion annually on the import of petroleum products and help the country establish its plastic industry with the operationalization of the petrochemical complex.

Pakistan’s petroleum group imports declined by 19.8 percent during the first half of the current fiscal year. The country has imported $6.14 billion worth of various petroleum products during July-December 2019 out of the total imports worth $23.23 billion, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The Saudi oil refinery and petrochemical complex are expected to help Pakistan with the transfer of technology, skill enhancement, and human capital development. It is also likely to generate significant employment opportunities and strengthen allied economic sectors as well.

Pakistan seals Taftan border after coronavirus kills eight in Iran

Updated 48 min 54 sec ago

Pakistan seals Taftan border after coronavirus kills eight in Iran

  • Balochistan’s government declares health emergency in all bordering districts
  • No flights to and from Iran have been halted, says CAA 

KARACHI: Pakistan has sealed Taftan border and stopped pilgrims from traveling via the crossing to Iran after eight coronavirus deaths were reported from the neighboring country, officials told Arab News on Sunday.

Iranian health authorities have said that 43 people were being treated for the virus -- which was first detected in Wuhan, China -- in at least four different cities, including the capital, Tehran. 
There are several shrines in Iran that are frequented by a large number of Shiite Muslims from Pakistan. Hundreds of people access the Taftan border crossing between the countries on a daily basis. 

Pakistan has stopped all movement from crossing points, launched screening procedures and introduced additional patrolling along the border “until the situation is under control,” Mir Zia Ullah Langove, Home Minister of southwestern Balochistan province told Arab News on Sunday. 

A Pakistan health official screens a man at the Taftan border crossing between the Pakistan-Iran border on Feb. 23, 2020, after coronavirus killed eight in Iran. Pakistan on Saturday declared a health emergency along its border with Iran. (Photo Courtesy: Office of the assistant commissioner Taftan)

“We are trying to take every possible precaution,” the home minister said, adding that these were efforts being taken by the provincial government, with assurance from Prime Minister Imran Khan that the federal government would be extending help as well.

The move to seal the border follows Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan’s decision on Saturday to declare a health emergency in all provincial districts bordering Iran.
However, flights to and from Iran have not been suspended.
“The staff of health ministry is already present at the airports and a passenger is allowed entry only after clearance of health declaration,” Abdul Sattar Khokhar, spokesperson Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan (CAAP) told Arab News, dismissing reports of a temporary halt on flights to Iran.
“There is no reality in reports that flight operations to Iran have been stopped. We had neither stopped flight operations to and from China and nor will it be stopped to any other country,” the official said.
Imran Zarkon, chief of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) told Arab News that as part of emergency preventative efforts, 1,000 masks had been distributed in the border areas, while a temporary hospital tent with 100-beds had been set up in case of an emergency. 
“Qom is the most affected area of Iran where the pilgrims go, so if there is any possibility of the virus coming to Pakistan it will be through Taftan and authorities here are on high alert,” he added.
However, this has failed to provide much consolation to the people of Balochistan, with some concerned about the illegal movement along the porous border.
“Iran shares over #1000 KM long porous border with #Balochistan #Pakistan, #coronaravirus deaths are alarming news for the region. Daily 100s of people cross these borders without formal procedures, region is poverty-stricken with no medical facility,” Sanallah Baloch, a Balochistan lawmaker tweeted on Saturday.
Meanwhile, in a statement released on Sunday, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri, said that he had discussed the matter with Iranian officials to safeguard Pakistani nationals visiting the country.
Qadri also spoke to Dr. Zafar Mirza, State Minister for Health, on the deployment of medical teams to the Taftan town along the border.