Thursday February 22, 2024

Govt, PTI bicker over MBS visit postponement

By Mariana Babar & News Desk
November 14, 2022
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — AFP/File
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The coalition government and opposition PTI have engaged in a squabble over the postponement of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s (MBS) visit to Pakistan and are defending their respective viewpoints.

The bickering began with the statement of PMLN senior leader and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Sunday claiming that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s (MBS) visit to Pakistan had been postponed due to the PTI’s ongoing long march towards Islamabad.

Taking to Twitter, Asif said, “Imran Khan’s first sit-in seven years ago had led to the cancellation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s to Pakistan and now the Saudi crown princes’ visit has been postponed due to the announcement of Nov 21 sit-in. This person is working on an agenda against the country”.

Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Muhammad Bin Salman’s much-anticipated visit to Pakistan has been postponed, the Foreign Office (FO) confirmed on Saturday, says a news report.

The Foreign Office declined to comment on the remarks of the Defence Minister when The News approached it. PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry engaged in a Twitter spat with Defense Minister Khwaja Asif over the issue.“Firstly, Khawaja Asif is the defence minister of Pakistan but morally he is so low as to feel no problem in telling a lie. Muhammad Bin Salman has postponed his visit to the whole of Asia, not just Pakistan,” he said in a tweet.

In another tweet, he said, “The second fact is that analysts in other countries are suggesting their rulers that dealing with the current rulers in Pakistan will show their disassociation with the people of Pakistan. Hence, any leader interested in long-term relations with Pakistan would maintain his distance from the present rulers”.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman was due to reach Islamabad on November 21, on a two-day visit but the visit was not officially announced by either Riyadh or Islamabad. However, diplomats did not contradict the reports on Saudi Crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in the media. Even, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, after his recent meeting with Prince Salman, had remarked that he was looking forward to the monarch’s visit.

Initially, the news of the postponement of the Saudi prince’s visit broke out by media outlets in New Delhi on Saturday afternoon but the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not comment. Later, they said it was because of ‘re-scheduling’ issues. Like in Pakistan, Delhi had not officially announced the Monarch’s visit.

Besides Pakistan and India, Prince Salman was due to visit Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand. Soon, the media here contacted government sources regarding the status of Prince Salman’s visit but they commented off the record. The Foreign Office was informed from Riyadh around 6:14 pm on Saturday.

When The News contacted the Foreign Office’s spokesperson, she confirmed that the visit had been postponed while new date would be announced later. After a lot of interaction between Riyadh and Islamabad, around 7pm on Saturday, The News was told by a government official, “We will issue a coordinated announcement soon”.

However, no agreement could be reached and a coordinated statement was not issued. On Sunday, when The News reached out to the same official it was told, “Not today”, despite the fact that Sunday is a working day in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, PPP stalwart Senator Farhatullah Babar tweeted: “Postponement of visit of Saudi Crown Prince is a moment of reflection. Are there parallels with the postponement of President Xi scheduled visit to Pakistan in 2014?”