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PM Shehbaz arrives in Saudi, meets Madina governor

Updated 28 Apr, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meeting Governor Madina Faisal bin Salman Al Saud at Madina, April 28, 2022. Photo: Foreign Office handout
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meeting Governor Madina Faisal bin Salman Al Saud at Madina, April 28, 2022. Photo: Foreign Office handout
The British court also ordered to unfreeze Shahbaz Sharif and his family's bank accounts. File Photo
The British court also ordered to unfreeze Shahbaz Sharif and his family's bank accounts. File Photo

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has arrived in Saudi Arabia on a three-day viist from Thursday (today) to April 30 (Saturday) - his first international trip after assuming the office earlier this month.

In a video message broadcast on national media, the premier expressed gratitude to Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz for the invitation. "The two countries are tied with deep-rooted, fraternal ties which are built on solid foundation of mutual trust and mutual support," he said in the statement.

The premier left with a 13-member delegation from the Nur Khan Airbase in Chaklala. Members of the delegation include Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, MQM-P convenor Khalid Maqbool, Narcotics Minister Shahzain Bugti, Ch Salik Hussain of PML-Q, MNA Mohsin Dawar, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and other officials.

During the visit, he 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.

"We are profoundly grateful for its [KSA] consistent support to Pakistan in its difficult hour. For its part, Pakistan has always stood by Saudi Arabia and will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its Saudi bretheren," Shehbaz said in the video message.

The two sides will also exchange views on a range of regional and international issues of mutual interest.

The purpose of this visit is to "to review our bilateral cooperation and to take our special relationship to new heights", said Shehbaz in the message.

Vision 2030

PM Shehbaz singled out Crown Prince Salman's for his efforts that has seen the Kingdom open up its economy in an effort to reduce dependence on oil, development of public sector such as health, education, recreation and tourism.

"We take pride in the development that has taken place under MBS’s Vision 2030."

The premier also highlighted the esteem in which the people of Pakistan hold the custodian of the two holy mosques. "We also commend the kingdom’s leadership of the Muslim ummah and their deep commitment to Muslim causes."

The premier also conveyed good wishes to Pakistani expatriates in the kingdom who he called contributors to Pakistan's economy through remittance. "They are a key partner in further fortifying the Pak-Saudi relationship."

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis, contributing to the progress, prosperity and economic development of the two countries.

Family ties

Sharif is the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and the family has close ties to Saudi royals.

Nawaz and Shehbaz Sharif, along with other relatives, went into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000 after a coup ousted Nawaz the previous year.

They did not return to Pakistan until 2007.

"The Sharif family have traditionally had very good relations with the kingdom and this visit serves (Shehbaz Sharif's) interest" in showing that to his domestic audience, said Saudi political analyst Ali Shihabi.

Yet those connections may have less value as power in Saudi Arabia consolidates under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, said Arif Rafiq, an expert on Pakistan and president of the Vizier Consulting risk advisory firm.

"I think a basic aim of this visit by Sharif would be to reset relations with (Prince Mohammed) and establish the terms of what is probably going to be a much more transactional partnership," Rafiq said.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest crude exporter, already supports Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves and has established a mechanism for selling oil to Pakistan on deferred payment, he said.

"The Pakistanis might ask Riyadh for additional deposits in its central bank because its external account is under severe stress," he added.

A detailed itinerary was not available Thursday, though the statement from Pakistan's foreign ministry said the visit would last until Saturday.