ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Wednesday visited Jeddah on a day-long trip to garner support of Saudi royalty after the Trump administration’s warning to Pakistan over “safe havens for terrorists” on its soil.
PM Abbasi – who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar – landed back home late Wednesday night.
He is scheduled to chair an important meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) today (Thursday), as consultations continue for a detailed policy statement on the US Afghan policy.
A brief statement from the PM House said: “The PM left for Pakistan from Jeddah after a day-long visit of Saudi Arabia. During the visit, the prime minister met Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman Al-Saud.”
Earlier, the Foreign Office said the prime minister was to meet the Saudi crown prince, besides paying respects at the Roza-e-Rasool (PBUH). King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is currently out of the kingdom on a private visit, it added.
“A whole spectrum of bilateral relations would be reviewed. In addition, the two leaders will also discuss emerging regional and global geo-strategic situation and other matters of mutual interests,” said the statement issued before the meeting between the PM and the crown prince.
A PML-N leader, who is regarded as a PM’s close aide, said Abbasi’s visit to Saudi Arabia was already on the cards, but it had to be arranged hastily after the Trump’s statement.
“The urgency of the issue necessitated an immediate visit to Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding, “Pakistan is hopeful that Saudi Arabia would play the role of a bridge between Pakistan and the US to iron out differences.”
However, political analyst Kanwar Dilshad sounds sceptical. “World politics is all about pragmatism. Our wishful thinking aside, we have to counter Washington’s pressure through meaningful foreign policy initiatives instead of cribbing and crying.”
He said that foreign policy was never a priority during Nawaz Sharif’s stint as prime minister. “This can be judged from the fact that we never had a foreign minister as long as Sharif remained the prime minister. And now, the PM is taking dictation from Jati Umra.
“So, you can well imagine the fate of our foreign policy initiatives. That’s why no one abroad takes the government seriously… neither the US nor Saudi Arabia. If this laidback attitude continues, things will not change till a new government is in place.”
Dilshad said if countries like China and Russia stood by Pakistan’s side, Washington would be pushed to deal with Islamabad on “more diplomatic lines instead of following the patterns of dominance and coercion”.
He added, “By mobilising the support of regional players, we need to build the narrative that the problem lies with Washington’s flawed policies in Afghanistan, and it is accusing us in order to shift the blame on us. It’s good that a strong stance was reflected in the Foreign Office’s press release on Tuesday.”