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February 16, 2019

MBS - the architect of new Saudi-Pak bond

Islamabad

February 16, 2019

John Maxwell once said that a leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. No exaggeration, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands true to Maxwell’s stated set of ways by leaders. After decades of intra-regional conflicts and chaos, the Crown Prince has put the Arab World on a way that leads to economic development. That is a huge shift from the traditional outlook of an oil producing region to becoming thriving economies of the world.

The present time tells that the engine of growth is Saudi Arabia, leading the way for its neighbours. The magician behind this phenomenal turnaround is, of course, young, dynamic and reformist leader - Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - who has put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a transformational path to turn into a booming economic force.

The entire Pakistani nation awaits for February 16 when Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be landing at Noor Khan Airport on a state visit to Pakistan, leading a huge official delegation. While Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to sign investment agreements and MoUs amounting to $20 billion with Pakistan, a major deal set to be signed is about an oil refinery in Gwadar with a funding of $8 billion besides fund for alternative energy including dam construction in Pakistan.

The day would always be remembered as a watershed in history of Saudi-Pakistan relations as both the governments would ink 10 agreements and MoUs to salvage investment in tourism, technology, food processing, construction, defence production and others.

Pakistan also has opened a new vista of opportunities for new investors and Saudi Arabia has become the biggest investment partner since past two decades. I will be honored to witness this historic moment and also will be signing two different agreements between the ministries of interior of the two countries.

Pakistan today itself is rising into a thriving economy. Pakistan, under its new leader Imran Khan – the visionary Prime Minister of Pakistan – is fast becoming a new destination of foreign investors and tourists.

Only in December 2018, Pakistan was ranked number-one attraction for global tourism lovers out of 20 other adventure travel destinations by the British Backpacker Society. The society also considered Pakistan’s northern as the friendliest countries in the world with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

This is a trust vote for a revolutionised Pakistan which has adopted an open visa policy, opening Pakistan for tourists and investors coupled with a reform agenda under visionary Imran Khan. The new government has departed from the country’s traditional outlook of a security state into an open, thriving economic state eager to engage its neighbours and distant friends to form a new bond of global and regional peacemakers.

Pakistan is playing a key role in salvaging peace and harmony among Middle East states and it is also being acclaimed for its peace maneuvers in the Middle East and Afghanistan under the peaceful neighbourhood policy of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been lauded by President Donald Trump and other world leaders for his outright support for the Afghan peace process. Stability and peace in Afghanistan would not only help the region return to peace and tranquility but a peaceful Afghanistan would also open new doors to regional and trans-regional trade and investment through greater connectivity between East, Central Asia, Arab World, Africa and Europe.

Pakistan today is a safe, secure and investment-friendly destination for global tourists and investors under the reformed institutions and a new outlook. It is about time for investors to move into Pakistan and explore investment opportunities here as Prime Minister Imran Khan has introduced a policy where the investors would attain maximum benefits and the government’s tax regime and visa policy are made investment-friendly besides ease of doing business ensured.

As I write these lines, I can see from the window of my office the charismatic Faisal Mosque that is an icon of Saudi-Pakistan friendly relations. The mosque is only one of hundreds of projects which portray the long-lasting, time-tested and historic Saudi-Pak relationship that have stood test of times. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are now moving together in pursuit of a renewed partnership that would benefit our peoples and will pay dividends to generations to come.

Pakistanis across country hold most favorable perception of Saudi Arabia and its leadership and the recent public surveys have recorded 95 per cent Pakistanis viewing Saudi Arabia favorably. Pakistan, being one of the strongest military powers in the Muslim world, has maintained a unique position to assist Saudi Arabia with its defence needs.

Saudi Arabia has always helped Pakistan whenever needed while Pakistani commandos ended the Grand Mosque Seizure by terrorists in 1979, and restored Saudi administration over the Masjid al-Haram.

Saudi Arabia is the major host state for overseas Pakistanis as around twenty-four percent Pakistani expatriates live in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - the largest expats destination for Pakistan. Over the years, our expats have contributed a lot in transformation of Saudi Arabia into a modern and thriving economy.

As a student of Political History, I am aware of the fact that the names of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan will be remembered for the generations to come who with their collective resolve and shared wisdom are taking practical steps to translate the excellent bilateral relationship into economic cooperation.

As Minister for Interior, I would keep working diligently to provide a safe, secure and peaceful environment to all foreign investors and companies working on projects in across Pakistan. I would also be working closely with my Saudi Arabian counterpart to jointly wage a front to combat crimes and terrorism.

I would also endeavour initiatives to put in place necessary agreements and MoUs to ensure that no individual or group could harm or jeopardise the excellent friendly ties both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Since war on corruption is very close to the hearts of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and both have made major gains in this regard, my focus would be to ensure that no individual or company involved in fraud or corrupt practices goes scot-free, harming the trust of foreign or local investors.

Witnessing this historic visit is a dream I would always cherish as I am a witness to history in the making. With our brave, farsighted and sincere leaders shaking hands today to take the two nations to new highs, I would stand tall and feel proud in being a part of this process which is set to usher into a new era of friendship and brotherhood.

Long Live Saudi, Pakistan Friendship

The author is Minister of State for Interior.

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