Pakistan, Saudi Arabia reaffirm commitment to expedite $5 billion investment package

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Pakistani commuters drive their vehicles under a banner welcoming Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman displayed on a bridge, ahead of his arrival, in Islamabad on February 15, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (center) meets Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) in his palace on the eve of 29th Ramadan, during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on April 7, 2024. (Saudi Press Agency)
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Updated 09 April 2024
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Pakistan, Saudi Arabia reaffirm commitment to expedite $5 billion investment package

  • The development occurs at a meeting between PM Shehbaz Sharif, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
  • Both sides stress the importance of a dialogue between Pakistan and India to ‘resolve outstanding issues’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have reaffirmed their commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion discussed previously, the Pakistan foreign office said on Monday, a day after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The prime minister met the Saudi crown prince at the Al-Safa Palace in Makkah Al-Mukarramah on Sunday, according to a joint statement issued by the Pakistani foreign ministry.

During the meeting, the crown prince extended his congratulations to PM Sharif on assuming office, while the Pakistan PM, in turn, conveyed gratitude for the Kingdom’s steadfast support and hospitality.

“The discussions centered on fortifying the fraternal relations between the two brotherly nations and exploring avenues for enhanced collaboration across various sectors,” the joint statement read.

“Emphasis was placed on the Kingdom’s supportive role in Pakistan’s economy and the mutual desire to strengthen trade and investment ties. Both parties affirmed their commitment to expediting the first wave of investment package worth $ 5 billion which was discussed previously.”

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its current account deficit and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages.

The prime minister invited the crown prince to undertake an official visit to Pakistan at the earliest convenience which was accepted by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the statement.

Both leaders exchanged views on regional and global developments of mutual interest, including the worrying situation in Gaza.

“They urged for international efforts to halt Israeli military operations in Gaza, mitigate humanitarian impact and underscored the imperative for the international community to pressure Israel to cease hostilities, adhere to international law, and facilitate unhindered humanitarian aid access to Gaza,” it read.

“They discussed the need for advancing the peace process in accordance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the General Assembly as well as the Arab Peace Initiative aimed at finding a just and comprehensive solution, for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The two sides also stressed the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to “resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute to ensure peace and stability in the region,” according to the joint statement.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed in full, though ruled in part by both India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947, with the neighbors having fought two of their three wars over it.

Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on a three-day official visit on Saturday, his first foreign trip as Pakistan’s chief executive since his election to the post last month. He was accompanied by his niece and Punjab chief minister, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, as well as the ministers of finance, foreign affairs, economic affairs, defense and information. The Pakistani premier and his delegation were also invited to an iftar by the Saudi crown prince.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the top destination for remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing the South Asian country oil on deferred payment facilities and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy, shore up its foreign exchange reserves.


Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection

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Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection

  • PNS Yarmook is equipped with latest weapons and equipment, capable of dealing with multifaceted threats
  • It will also be used for ‘naval diplomacy’ during its deployment period and visit various ports around the region

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has deployed a warship for regional maritime security and to protect commercial vessels arriving at its ports, according to a statement released by the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), on Friday.
The development comes as the country plans to upgrade its southern port facilities to strengthen its economy by bolstering trade with countries worldwide.
Pakistan has also offered the landlocked Central Asian states access to its harbor in Karachi while aiming to increase its capacity for handling incoming and outgoing cargo.
“The Pakistan Navy has deployed the warship PNS Yarmook on a regional maritime security patrol in the Indian Ocean,” the ISPR said in a statement. “Equipped with modern helicopters, PNS Yarmook will ensure the safety of commercial vessels arriving at and departing from Pakistani ports.”
The statement said the warship would participate in joint operations and exercises with friendly countries in addition to its own operations.
PNS Yarmook will also be part of “naval diplomacy” and visit various regional ports during its deployment.
“This ship is equipped with the latest weapons and equipment, capable of dealing with multifaceted threats and conducting extensive maritime operations,” the ISPR continued.
“Pakistan Navy warships regularly perform duties on regional maritime security patrols,” it added.


Pakistan announces $250 million investment by Abu Dhabi Ports over 10 years in Karachi

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan announces $250 million investment by Abu Dhabi Ports over 10 years in Karachi

  • Senior company delegation briefs PM Sharif on plans to upgrade the container terminal facility
  • The improved infrastructure will help the docking of ships carrying up to 120,000 tons of cargo

ISLAMABAD: Abu Dhabi Ports Pakistan will invest $250 million in the country over a period of ten years, an official statement announced Friday, as it plans to build an advanced port facility in the country’s seaside metropolis of Karachi.
Last year in May, the leading maritime and logistics provider based in the United Arab Emirates, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Karachi Port Trust to construct a premier transshipment hub in the city.
The Pakistani officials expressed hope at the time that the UAE company would help transform Karachi Port into a world-class maritime facility.
“Abu Dhabi Ports Pakistan will invest $250 million in Karachi Port over the next ten years,” said an official statement released after a high-level delegation of the company called upon Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“A state-of-the-art, fully-equipped multipurpose terminal, being constructed with an investment of $130 million, will be completed in the next two years,” it added while quoting from a briefing given by the delegation members.
The statement said the company wanted to improve container terminal facilities at the Karachi Port by installing automated gates, an additional 200 meters of berth extension and crane rail tracks.
“The construction of new infrastructure at the terminal will allow the docking of ships carrying up to 120,000 tons of cargo, thereby increasing economic activities at the port,” it continued.
The prime minister hoped digital technology and modern machinery would improve the management of goods and containers at the port.
He also directed the authorities to improve the container system to minimize the clearance time.
“The agreement with Abu Dhabi Ports aims at transparency, increased efficiency, and improved port operations,” he was quoted as saying.
He assured the UAE company of his government’s full support regarding the implementation of Pakistan’s agreement with it to maximize its benefits.
The prime minister also instructed railway officials to provide freight wagons and necessary rolling stock to make the project operational and enhance cargo transportation from the terminal.


US calls for media safety following journalist’s killing in Pakistan’s northwest

Updated 19 July 2024
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US calls for media safety following journalist’s killing in Pakistan’s northwest

  • Malik Hassan Zaib was fatally shot by unknown gunmen on motorbike in KP’s Nowshera city
  • State Department says journalists should be allowed to carry out their duties worldwide

ISLAMABAD: The US State Department on Thursday emphasized the importance of journalist safety worldwide while commenting on the killing of a Pakistani reporter in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province by unidentified gunmen last week.
Malik Hassan Zaib, who was fatally shot by unknown people on a motorbike in KP’s Nowshera city, was the eighth journalist to be killed in Pakistan in the ongoing year.
His assassination was condemned by press freedom organizations that maintained it highlighted the increasing dangers faced by journalists in the South Asian state.
Asked about the development during the State Department media briefing, the principal deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said it was vital for journalists to be able to carry out their responsibilities anywhere in the world.
“Journalists need to be protected and they need to be allowed to do their jobs, whether that be the United States, whether that be Pakistan, whether that be in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “That is something that we feel strongly, and it’s something that is deeply personal to the Secretary [Antony Blinken].”
“It’s obviously personal to us and this team having – spending most of our days engaging with you all,” he continued. “But simply put, journalists need to be protected and need to be able to do their jobs.”
The Pakistani correspondent’s death also prompted New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists to urge the Pakistani authorities to deal with the “horrifying wave of violence” against the media.
It also asked the government to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
“The continued impunity for those who attack journalists is creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in Pakistan, which prevents the practice of free and independent journalism,” it added.


Pakistan forms committee to identify businesses supporting Israel as religious party calls off sit-in

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan forms committee to identify businesses supporting Israel as religious party calls off sit-in

  • TLP supporters staged a pro-Palestine sit-in at Faizabad Interchange connecting Rawalpindi and Islamabad last Saturday
  • They asked the government to declare Israeli PM ‘a terrorist’ and send more food and medical supplies to Gaza Strip

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has announced the formation of a committee to identify companies financially supporting Israel’s war in Gaza and recommend banning their products, according to a close aide to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday.
Rana Sanaullah, the PM’s political adviser, shared the decision after negotiating an end to a sit-in by the religious group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which was demanding an official ban on such products and increased food and medical assistance to Palestinians.
The TLP, which also asked the government to declare Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “a terrorist,” called off its week-long sit-in after reaching an agreement with the government, as shared by the information ministry.
“Israel has emerged as a terrorist state and Netanyahu has committed war crimes,” Sanaullah said in a news conference in Islamabad after the TLP agreement. “Pakistan’s prime minister has condemned this in strong words during the Shanghai conference and Pakistan government will continue to condemn this on every forum, using all the possible steps to help Palestinian Muslims.”
“We have also agreed on and will follow it with details that not just Israel, but all the products related to them or those companies who, in any way, directly or indirectly, are involved in this cruelty or assisting that country [Israel] and its forces in any form, will be boycotted and use of their products will be banned,” he continued. “We have formed a committee in this regard, and we will go in detail to find out the companies that might be linked to Israel and if we may be using their products and because of that these forces who are involved in this cruelty are being helped financially.”
Many people in Pakistan have called for a boycott of foreign companies suspected of supporting Israel since the beginning of the war in Gaza.
Social media campaigns and public figures have also voiced support for such a boycott, urging consumers to choose alternative products.
Israel’s has so far claimed at least 39,000 lives, many of them women and children. The casualties have sparked anger and protests worldwide, including in Pakistan, where the country’s civil society and political factions have consistently led pro-Palestine rallies.
The TLP set up its protest camp last Saturday at a busy traffic juncture, the Faizabad Interchange, connecting Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Known for its hard-line stance on blasphemy laws, the party also staged similar sit-ins at the same spot in the past, significantly disrupting the flow of traffic between the two cities.


Pakistani minister announces plan to bear prisoner repatriation expenses from Sri Lanka

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistani minister announces plan to bear prisoner repatriation expenses from Sri Lanka

  • Abdul Aleem Khan’s decision will bring back more than 40 Pakistani prisoners to the country from Sri Lankan jails
  • According to the interior ministry, their release was delayed due to difficulties in meeting the required expenses

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Communication Abdul Aleem Khan has promised to bear the repatriation expenses of Pakistani prisoners in Sri Lankan jails, said an official statement on Friday, making it possible for them to return to their home country by removing a major obstacle.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka agreed to take immediate steps to ensure the return of 43 prisoners in a meeting held between the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Admiral (r) Ravindra Chandra, and Federal Interior Minister, Mohsin Naqvi, in May.
However, their release had been delayed due to the financial issues.
“Federal Minister for Communications Abdul Aleem Khan has announced to bear all expenses for the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners stranded in Sri Lanka for years,” the interior ministry said in a statement. “These prisoners will now be able to return home soon after completing the necessary procedures.”
The interior minister expressed his gratitude to Khan for taking interest in the matter, applauding his gesture which he said would be “a breath of fresh air for the prisoners and their families.”
According to Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), nearly 14,000 Pakistani citizens are languishing in prisons across the world.
JPP, a local advocacy group, represents vulnerable Pakistan prisoners at home and abroad.