LAHORE: Saudi Arabia supports the on-going corruption purge in Pakistan, the oil-rich kingdom’s envoy said while speaking at the Express Media Group Forum hosted by Ajmal Sattar Malik on Saturday.
Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed al Malki spoke on various issues, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan-India tension, anti-corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia, etc.
Earlier this month, Riyadh detained dozens of top-serving and former officials, including 11 members of the royal family, in a wide-ranging crackdown that it says is aimed at rooting out corruption and reclaiming embezzled funds
Initially, it was indeed difficult to muster public support for the corruption purge, led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, said Ambassador Malki. “However, people are slowly realising that corruption and abuse of power are sullying the system.”
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Initially, investors and businessmen were worried about the outcome of the crackdown, but now they have started appreciating the rare purge, according to Malki.
Comparing the situation to Pakistan’s, the ambassador said, “The Saudi anti-corruption sweep is similar to the accountability drive in Pakistan and it is necessary to purge the system [of this menace] for a peaceful and prosperous future.”
“Saudi Arabia not only supports the anti-corruption efforts in Pakistan but also promises to continue rendering support to every government, provided it is elected by the people of Pakistan," he said while responding to a question.
Ambassador Malki also revealed that the defence ministers of all member states in the Saudi-led military alliance would be meeting in Riyadh on November 26.
The alliance aims at strengthening cooperation and integration among the member states. “This alliance will primarily focus on enhancing cooperation, as taking military action against any country, especially a Muslim state, will be the last option,” he added.
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Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties and imposed an economic blockade on Qatar in early June, accusing it of backing terrorism. Qatar has denied the allegations and has since gone on the offensive.
“Qatar is still a brother Muslim state. The crisis will be over soon and relations between Doha and Riyadh will go back to normal. Saudi Arabia has a very clear stance on its relations with Iran and Yemen as well,” Malki said.
The Saudi envoy sees a very bright future for Pakistan, especially after the multibillion-dollar CPEC project.
He said since Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are brotherly countries, Riyadh wanted to expand bilateral relations with Islamabad, especially in the sectors of health, education, sports, culture, business and economy.
"We want Pakistan to benefit from the opportunities that will be offered by Saudi Vision 2030. A high-level Saudi business and trade delegation is scheduled to visit Pakistan next week to explore avenues of mutual cooperation," he said.
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Elaborating on Saudi Vision 2030 — a brainchild of Crown Prince Salman — the ambassador said it has been launched with an aim to diversify the Saudi economy and shift its reliance from oil to other sectors.
He also said that major investments are expected for the initiative, negotiations for which are already under way at various levels.
With reference to Pakistan-India tensions, the Saudi envoy said that Pakistan’s integrity is important for regional peace. He said Riyadh could mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the lingering Kashmir dispute. He added that both, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia know which countries fund and use Taliban, Da’esh and Baloch separatists for their vested interests.
The ambassador stressed on how there are over 300 million Muslims in India who cannot be ignored while also being of the opinion that US is a super power and one cannot afford to have tension with them.
Refuting the claims of the Saudi king stepping down, he said there is no chance of that happening for now. “Saudi Arabia is moving towards a liberal and moderate state, where everyone will have equal rights and the women will be empowered. No one will be above the law and people will have access to justice.”
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He also spoke about how Pakistan is actually a peaceful country and how the world is only presented with a negative image of law and order. “The fact that I can move around without any protocol or security is testament to how peaceful the country is.” It is the job of the Pakistani media to ensure that a positive image of the country is portrayed aboard. He also added how he loves Pakistan.
The panel at the event included Daily Express Group Editor Ayaz Khan, Editor Editorial Lateef Chaudhry, Express News Lahore Bureau Chief Muhammad Ilyas and Express Tribune Chief Reporter Imran. Ahsan Kamray assisted the forum. Former senator and former federal minister Muhammad Ali Durrani was also present on the occasion.
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