Turmoil-hit Pakistan rolls out red carpet for Saudi crown prince


World, Asia

Amid heightened security, cash-strapped Pakistan was on Sunday ready to receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The crown prince was due to reach Pakistan on Saturday, but his arrival was delayed for a day.

Islamabad: Amid heightened security, cash-strapped Pakistan was on Sunday ready to receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whose maiden trip to Islamabad was delayed by a day for unknown reasons.

Unease ran in the government circles in Islamabad that the Saudi prince might call off the trip due to security reasons after building up of tensions between Pakistan and India following a terror attack on soldiers in Kashmir on Thursday, according to officials privy to the developments.

But there was a sigh of relief when the Foreign Office announced on Friday night that the de-facto ruler of the Gulf Kingdom will arrive on Sunday. No reason was given for the rescheduling of the planned arrival of the prince. However, the duration of two-day was not curtailed, nor the meetings and investment plans.

The crown prince was due to reach Pakistan on Saturday, but his arrival was delayed for a day. Saudi Arabia on Friday said it stood with India's fight against terrorism and extremism and denounced as "cowardly" the attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group in Jammu and Kashmir that killed at least 40 CRPF soldiers.

The crown prince, who is visiting Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, will be accorded a red carpet welcome and presented a guard of honour at the PM House after his arrival at Noor Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.

According to official media, the prince will be received by Prime Minister Khan and members of his cabinet at the air base. He will be accompanied by a high-powered delegation, including members of Saudi Royal family, key ministers and leading businessmen.

This will be his first official visit to Pakistan since his elevation to the position of crown prince in April 2017. During his visit, Muhammad bin Salman, colloquially known as MBS, will meet President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign a number of agreements and MoUs in diverse sectors. According to Advisor to PM on Trade, Razzak Dawood, agreements worth between USD 10-15 billion will be signed, including one about Saudi investment to build an oil refinery.

The refinery once ready will help to save about USD 1.25 billion in imports bills. The two sides will also set up an advisory council led by the crown prince and the prime minister of Pakistan to follow up the agreement singed so that they are implemented on time.

Special arrangements were made in Islamabad to accord a warm welcome to the prince and his entourage on their arrival. Big portraits of MBS, King Salman, Prime Minister Khan and President Alvi have been erected on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad.

Banners and posters inscribed with slogans of Pak-Saudi friendship and fraternity have also been put on display along the roads. A big portrait of the crown prince, 120 feet tall and 45 feet wide, was also installed on the parliament building.

Locally built JF-17 Thunder jets will escort the plane of the prince after it entered Pakistani airspace. Elaborate security arrangement were made and the routes leading to Red Zone where all important government offices and diplomatic missions were located was sealed for common public.

A four-tier security arrangements have been made for the prince. The outer most tier will be manned by police, the second by paramilitary Ranger, the third by the army and the fourth and inner most by the royal guards of the prince.

The prince will also use about 130 royal guards. A 235-member delegation of the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), led by Pakistan's former army chief General Raheel Sharif, is in the capital to ensure foolproof security.

A holiday was declare for Monday to avoid tension for workers and students as more than 1,000 security check points were set up in the city and at entry places.