Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani flew into the Saudi kingdom on Sunday as Saudi Arabia buried Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz in Islam’s holiest city.
The premier and army chief have officially gone to offer condolences and attend Nayef’s funeral. However, the PM, who had earlier expressed his desire to invite Imam-e-Khana-e-Kaaba (grand mufti) to help create harmony amongst state institutions in Pakistan, will now personally request King Abdullah to send the grand mufti to Pakistan as a peace envoy and request him to appeal to the Taliban and its various factions to lay down their arms, according to a source at the Prime Minister House.
“Chief of Army Staff General Kayani is travelling with the premier for the first time to Saudi Arabia exclusively to brief the Saudi king over the prevailing security situation,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
The official went on to add that if the grand mufti agreed to visit Pakistan, he would also likely hold meetings with prominent political figures and top officials, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
“Yes, the visit is significant as both the premier and army chief are travelling together to discuss an important issue with Saudi leaders, keeping in view the high spiritual status of the imam amongst Pakistanis and their leadership,” a military official told The Express Tribune.
The military official said that the appeal would seek to restrict the Taliban’s terror activities as Ramadan approaches, adding that intelligence reports pointed towards a rise in terror incidents in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah also accompanied the prime minister. Prior to his departure, the PM told reporters at Chaklala Airbase that the entire nation was grieving over the death of crown prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, adding that the crown prince had played a significant role in strengthening the fraternal bond between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
“His contributions exclusively for Pakistan will always be remembered,” said Gilani.
The prime minister said he would condole with the members of the Saudi Royal family and would attend the funeral of the deceased crown prince.
Salman likely to be heir apparent
Defence minister Prince Salman appeared poised to become the new heir apparent after Saudi Arabia buried crown prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz.
The 79-year-old Nayef died on Saturday of “cardiac problems” at his brother’s residence in Geneva, a medical source in the Swiss city said.
The ceremony was held late afternoon at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, in western Saudi Arabia, and attended by a grieving King Abdullah, members of the royal family and a number of heads of states from Islamic countries.
Prince Nayef’s body, which arrived earlier in the day in the city of Jeddah on board a Saudi aircraft from Geneva before being driven to Mecca, was wrapped in an ochre-coloured shroud during the ceremony and later buried in a cemetery next to the Grand Mosque.
Tributes for Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s long-serving interior minister, poured in from around the world.
“Crown Prince Nayef devoted his life to promoting the security of Saudi Arabia,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while US President Barack Obama praised his cooperation in the fight against terror that “saved countless American and Saudi lives.”
(with additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.