–$20bn worth of Saudi investments expected to be made during Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s two-day visit
–MBS to meet President Alvi, Prime Minister Imran, COAS Gen Bajwa
–Likely to participate in next round of Afghan peace talks to be hosted by Pakistan on Feb 18
ISLAMABAD: Arrangements have been finalised for the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman aka MBS, who along with a 40-member delegation and contingent of royal guards, will be reaching the federal capital on Sunday on his first state visit to Pakistan since becoming the heir to the throne.
Earlier scheduled to start on February 16, the two-day visit of the crown prince was delayed on Friday owing to unknown reasons, however, the programme with regard to the prince’s stay in Pakistan will remain unchanged.
According to the Foreign Office, the visit will see Pakistan and Saudi Arabia sign a number of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in diverse sectors.
The two countries will also discuss ways to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of cooperation during the visit that is expected to significantly enhance bilateral ties in all spheres.
According to reports, a $20 billion worth of investment will be made in Pakistan during the visit of MBS, as he is popularly known. Three government-to-government MoUs worth billions of dollars will also be signed.
The agreements will include areas such as oil refining, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and mineral development. In addition, eight multibillion-dollar MoUs will also be signed in the fields of water, power, investment, finance, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports.
A preferential trade agreement and easing of procedures for business visas for Pakistanis will be proposed to Saudi Arabia as part of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for carrying out economic reforms.
A Joint Coordination Council headed by Imran and MBS will also devise a mechanism to implement bilateral agreements, and the duo will co-chair meetings on various joint working groups on trade and investment.
CROWN PRINCE’S AGENDA:
On MBS’s agenda are meetings with President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Saudi ministers will hold bilateral talks with their Pakistani counterparts in their respective fields.
Top Saudi businessmen, including the CEO of Aramco, will also meet local businessmen and industrialists to discuss collaboration in the private sector.
While there has not been any official confirmation to this extent, reports have claimed that the crown prince is also likely to meet Afghan Taliban representatives in Islamabad where the latter are due to see PM Imran and US representatives for the next round of Afghan peace talks.
Islamabad has been playing an increasingly vital role in the talks, which have been gathering momentum in recent months amid a growing US desire to pull out its troops from troubled Afghanistan. Along with other Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia has been part of the peace negotiations.
“Though it is top secret so far, there are strong indications representatives of the Afghan Taliban will meet Prince Salman during their visit of Pakistan on February 18,” a Pakistani official was quoted as saying. The official also hinted at the meeting being the reason behind the postponement of the Saudi royal’s visit.
PM Imran will also host a dinner for the crown prince at the PM House. The visiting dignitary will also be the chief guest at a luncheon at Aiwan-e-Sadr (Presidency) the next day which will also be attended by the crown prince’s 100-member delegation and the Pakistani ministers and other high-level civil and military officials.
Prince Mohammad bin Salman will then be awarded the country’s highest civilian award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — at an auspicious ceremony at the Presidency. The royal entourage will later be taken to the airport under strict security.
Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman would be accorded historic welcome upon his arrival in Pakistan for which preparations have been completed.
As part of the preparation to welcome the Saudi Royal and his delegation, 750 rooms in eight hotels have been booked while seven BMW 7s, a Land Cruiser and eight containers have arrived in Pakistan from Saudi Arabia.
The luxury vehicles were carried to the Noor Khan Airbase by two C-130 planes. The Crown Prince will be flown to the PM House from the airbase on a chopper. His personal belongings such as furniture and gym equipment have already been flown in and transported to PM House where he will stay.
Pakistan has reserved 300 Land Cruisers for the Saudi delegation as well. A five-tier VVIP security plan has been devised for the delegation. Over 2,000 police and Rangers personnel have been deployed as part of the security arrangements.
Drones, if spotted, will be shot down immediately after coming into sight in the capital. The Red Zone and its adjoining areas will be sealed.
According to reports, some 123 Saudi Royal Guards will be on duty for the security of MBS during his visit to the federal capital. A red carpet will be rolled out in the PM Office, where the Crown Prince will receive a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute.
A formation of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets would also escort the jet of the crown prince when it would enter the airspace of Pakistan.
‘MODERNISER OF THE DESERT’:
Seen as a leader who snapped Saudi Arabia’s conservative roots, MBS has won plaudits from global leaders for some of the reforms he has overseen, including lifting the ban on women driving and seeking to diversify the Saudi economy.
Besides being the youngest defence minister in the world and the first in line to the throne, MBS is also Saudi Arabia’s deputy prime minister. Since assuming the role of Crown Prince, he has been working for the Kingdom’s socioeconomic transformation.
He is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy of the Kingdom and reduce its reliance on oil.
Among the reforms envisaged in the Vision 2030 plan are the reopening of cinemas and allowing women to attend concerts and other entertainment events. The Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 reform plan also seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from the current 22 per cent.
The Kingdom has witnessed several unprecedented developments since MBS began implementing his reform plans. In a bid to ensure transparency in the financial system to promote international investments, Saudi Arabia launched a drive to root out corruption from society without discrimination.
Moreover, MBS’s history of philanthropic initiatives has earned him many accolades. In 2011, he established the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (MiSK), which enables young Saudis to learn, develop and progress in the fields of business, literature, culture, science and technology, and sociology.
In 2013, he received the Personality of the Year from Forbes Middle East for his role as Chairman of the MiSK Foundation in recognition of his support for Saudi youth and their development. He was also named as world’s 8th most powerful person by Forbes in 2018.
In recent years, the crown prince has become the government’s face of reform, modernisation and change. In a country where about 60 per cent of the population is under 30 years of age, the young crown prince is widely seen as an icon in the push toward socioeconomic reforms.