PM Shehbaz Sharif visits Saudi Arabia on first foreign trip

Pakistan Prime Minsiter Shehbaz Sharif (left) holds talks with Governor of Makkah Khalid Bin Faisal Al Saud in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on April 29, 2022. (@PakPMO/Twitter)
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Updated 29 April 2022

PM Shehbaz Sharif visits Saudi Arabia on first foreign trip

  • Sharif started his visit on the invitation of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • The PM said Pakistan’s relationship with the kingdom was both historic and strategic in nature

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday arrived in Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip since assuming the top political office of his country.

Sharif became Pakistan’s PM on April 11, after his immediate predecessor Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote.

He started the three-day visit to the kingdom on the invitation of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Sharif was received by Governor Faisal bin Salman after he arrived in Madinah.

The prime minister also visited the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah after meeting the Saudi official.
In a video message recorded prior to his departure, he said that he was delighted to be going to the kingdom on his first international visit after becoming Pakistan’s PM.

“This reflects the high importance Pakistan gives to its special relationship with Saudi Arabia which is historic in nature and also strategic in importance,” he continued.

The prime minister thanked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his “gracious invitation” while admiring his transformational vision for the kingdom.

He also noted that the people of Pakistan held “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in highest esteem.”

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are bound by the deep-rooted and abiding fraternal ties which are built on the solid foundation of mutual trust and mutual support,” he said, adding: “We are profoundly grateful to Saudi Arabia for its consistent support to Pakistan.”

Sharif maintained Pakistan had always stood by Saudi Arabia as well and would continue to support the kingdom and its people.

“We also commend the kingdom’s leadership of the Muslim ummah and for its deep commitment to Muslim causes,” he said. “I look forward to my interaction with the Saudi leadership to review our multifaceted bilateral cooperation and to take this special relationship to unknown heights.”




Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (second left) arrives in Saudi Arabia on a three-day visit on April 28, 2022. (@SPAregions/Twitter)

The prime minister also applauded Pakistani expatriates in the kingdom, saying they made enormous economic contributions for the development of their country while describing them as “a key partner” in further fortifying the Saudi-Pakistan relationship.

The prime minister is accompanied by several members of his cabinet, including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

“During the visit, the Prime Minister will have bilateral interaction with the Saudi leadership, with particular focus on advancing economic, trade and investment ties and creation of greater opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.




PM Shehbaz Sharif (first left) offers Maghrib prayer in Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, on April 28, 2022. (@GovtofPakistan/Twitter)

“The Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia will impart a strong impetus to deepening bilateral cooperation in diverse fields and further reinforce the growing partnership between the two countries.”

Pakistan has deep-rooted ties with Saudi Arabia, with nearly 2.5 million of its nationals living and working in the Kingdom.


Saudi development agency extends term of $3 billion deposit with Pakistan's central bank

Updated 02 December 2022

Saudi development agency extends term of $3 billion deposit with Pakistan's central bank

  • The deposit originally aimed to help Pakistan deal with financial repercussions in the wake of COVID-19
  • The Saudi Development Fund hopes the decision will help Pakistan handle external sector challenges

KARACHI: Pakistan's central bank said on Friday the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) had extended the term of a $3 billion deposit to shore up the country's economy which is currently going through a rough patch.
The deposit was made under an agreement signed between the State Bank of Pakistan and the Saudi development agency in November 2021 to support the South Asian state's dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
The Pakistani central bank announced in a Twitter post last September the SFD had confirmed the deposit's rollover for another year.
"The extension of the term of deposit is a continuation of the support provided by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," the State Bank said in a statement.
It noted the deposit originally aimed to help Pakistan deal with financial repercussions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Saudi development agency also hoped in a Twitter post that its decision would make it easier for Pakistan "to meet external sector challenges & achieve sustainable economic growth."
According to Pakistan's central bank, the country's total liquid foreign reserves stood at $13.4 billion on November 25. The foreign exchange held by the State Bank amounted to $7.5 billion while the rest of it was with various commercial banks.
"It is a crucial development for Pakistan's economy since the amount of $3 billion is quite considerable," Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, former advisor to the finance ministry, told Arab News. "With $7.5 billion on November 25, Pakistan needs to ensure that the money deposited by all friendly countries is rolled over."
The development was also applauded by people from other walks of life, including the country's religious community that said Saudi Arabia had always cooperated with Pakistan.
"As a result of the meetings held between Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it is clear that investment and cooperation from Saudi Arabia in Pakistan will further increase in the coming days," said chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi.
He added the country was expected to hear "good news in the near future" from other Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey.


PM Sharif condemns 'assassination attempt' on Pakistan diplomat after embassy in Kabul comes under attack

Updated 02 December 2022

PM Sharif condemns 'assassination attempt' on Pakistan diplomat after embassy in Kabul comes under attack

  • The foreign office says a security guard was 'critically injured' while trying to save Pakistan's head of mission
  • Pakistan has demanded investigation into the incident while calling for security of its diplomatic personnel

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned an "assassination attempt" against his country's head of mission in Afghanistan after Pakistan's embassy in Kabul was attacked on Friday.
The foreign office said in a statement a Pakistani security guard got "critically injured" while trying to protect the head of mission, Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani, during the attack.
The statement also urged the Afghan interim administration to thoroughly investigate the incident, apprehend the culprits and hold them to account.
Prime Minister Sharif also expressed shock at the development while applauding the bravery of the security guard.
"I strongly condemn [the] dastardly assassination attempt on [Pakistani] Head of Mission [in] Kabul," he wrote in a Twitter post. "Salute to brave security guard, who took bullet to save his life."
"I demand immediate investigation & action against [the] perpetrators of this heinous act," he added.

While it is not clear who launched the attack, Pakistan's interior minister Rana Sanaullah said on Thursday Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a proscribed militant network, was enjoying "all sorts of facilities in Afghanistan."
Sanaullah issued the statement after a recent suicide bombing in the southwestern Balochistan province that targeted police providing security to polio workers.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the attack in Balochistan, making the Pakistani minister say it should be "a matter of concern" for the government in Kabul since the top leadership of the group was based in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan foreign office also asked the administration in Kabul to "take urgent measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani diplomatic personnel and citizens in Afghanistan."
 


Pakistan's top cricket board official says lifeless wickets not good advert for test cricket

Updated 02 December 2022

Pakistan's top cricket board official says lifeless wickets not good advert for test cricket

  • Ramiz Raja says Pakistan needs to prepare drop-in pitches at home similar to the ones in Australia
  • PCB chairman praises England for developing 'new template in test match cricket' by playing aggressively

RAWALPINDI: A top official of the Pakistan Cricket Board says the lifeless wicket for the test against England is not a great advertisement for the longer format of the game and that Pakistan needs to look for drop-in pitches.
“Not happy at all (with the pitch),” PCB chairman Ramiz Raja told reporters on Friday. “We may just get a result, but it’s just not a great advert.”
In its first test in Pakistan in 17 years, England racked up a monumental 657 in its first innings at a rapid pace of 6.5 an over with four of its five top batters — Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope — smashing centuries.
Raja said Pakistan needs to prepare drop-in pitches at home similar to the ones in Australia to challenge teams like England, which has been playing an aggressive brand of cricket since Brendon McCullum took over as coach in June.
“I think our way out is for drop-in pitches here because all the surfaces (in Pakistan) are more or less the same,” Raja said. “If you want to nail England, for example, on a spinning track then we’ve got to prepare a drop-in pitch that turns from ball number one, rather than having a half-baked pitch which is neither quick nor spin a lot.”
The Pindi Cricket Stadium pitch was criticized during Australia’s tour in March when ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle rated the wicket as below average after only 14 wickets fell in five days.
Raja was impressed with England’s aggressive intent, which has seen the team beating New Zealand and South Africa at home this summer under McCullum’s fearless approach.
“We’re seeing a new template in test match cricket, which is taking the game to the opposition,” Raja said. “There’s been a solid planning and a solid thought behind the entire exercise. It’s not like the button has switched on where you suddenly produce four centuries and a score of 500 in a day.
“We want Pakistan to change course. Let’s see whether we are able to do that or not, but it will take time for sub-continent teams to have that kind of mentality.”


Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq Haq give Pakistan solid start after England's 657

Updated 02 December 2022

Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq Haq give Pakistan solid start after England's 657

  • The home team still need 277 runs to avoid the follow-on after scoring 181 runs without loss
  • Haq, who scored a hundred against Australia in March, completed 1,000 runs in his 17th test

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan's openers got among the runs on a placid pitch Friday as they took the home team to 181 without loss in reply to England's mammoth 657 in the first Test in Rawalpindi.
At close on day two, Imam-ul-Haq (90) and Abdullah Shafique (89) were approaching hundreds when umpires called stumps with 17 overs remaining.
The home team still need 277 runs to avoid the follow-on.
The pitch was again unresponsive to bowlers as the England attack, led by James Anderson, toiled in the same manner as the home side.
Shafique was lucky to survive a confident caught behind appeal by Ollie Pope off a rising delivery. Although umpire Joel Wilson gave a soft signal for out, television official Marais Erasmus over-ruled it.
Haq, who scored a century in each innings on the same pitch in a Test against Australia in March, pushed spinner Jack Leach for two to complete 1,000 runs in his 17th Test.
Shafique, who also scored a hundred against Australia in the March test, cracked two boundaries to reach his fifth half-century in his eighth Test, highlighting his rapid progress.
Haq followed suit soon after, taking a single off Joe Root for his fifth half-century.
Earlier, resuming at 506-4, England added 151 runs in 125 minutes, with Harry Brook taking his overnight score of 101 to 153 -- one of four centurions in the innings.
Skipper Ben Stokes (41), debutant Liam Livingstone (nine), and Brook were all dismissed by pacer Naseem Shah, who finished with 3-140.
Leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood conceded 235 for his four wickets -- the most by a bowler on a Test debut.
Previously, Sri Lankan off-spinner Suraj Randiv conceded 222 against India in Colombo in 2010.
England's total is their highest against Pakistan in all Tests, improving on their 589-9 at Manchester in 2016.
On Thursday England became the first team to score 500 runs on the opening day of a Test match, bettering Australia's 112-year-old record of 494-6 against South Africa in Sydney.
Zak Crawley (122), Ollie Pope (108) and Ben Duckett (107) were the other centurions in the innings.
The three-match Test series is England's first in Pakistan for 17 years, having declined to tour in the interim because of security fears.


Pakistan appoints official at center of ex-PM Khan's cypher saga its new foreign secretary

Updated 02 December 2022

Pakistan appoints official at center of ex-PM Khan's cypher saga its new foreign secretary

  • Khan, who was removed from power via a no-trust vote in April, says his ouster was part of a foreign conspiracy
  • The former premier had built his narrative on an alleged cypher based on Asad Majeed's meeting with a US official

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has appointed its ambassador to Belgium, Dr. Asad Majeed, as the country's new foreign secretary, the Foreign Office said on Friday, whose name remained at the center of ex-prime minister Imran Khan's allegations of a foreign conspiracy to topple his government. 

Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April, says he was dislodged from power as part of a United States-backed conspiracy for pursuing an independent foreign policy for the South Asian nation. 

The former premier said at the time his government had allegedly received a cypher based on a meeting between Majeed, who was then Pakistan's ambassador to the US, and State Department official Donald Lu.  

Washington and Khan's political opponents denied the allegations. 

"Dr. Asad Majeed Khan, presently posted as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium, the European Union and Luxembourg has been appointed as the new Foreign Secretary," a Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson said on Twitter. 

 

 

 

The post of the foreign secretary had been vacant for the last two months, since the retirement of Sohail Mehmood in late September. 

Before his retirement, Mehmood had posted then Pakistani ambassador to Italy, Jauhar Saleem, as the acting foreign secretary after the Foreign Office failed to finalize a name for the post. 

The Establishment Division has also notified Majeed's appointment with immediate effect and until further orders.