ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign eight memorandums of understanding (MoUs) during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, turning their "excellent bilateral relations into a strong economic partnership", Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Wednesday.
At a press conference along with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Razak Dawood and Board of Investment (BoI) Chairman Haroon Sharif, Qureshi made clear that there were no strings attached to the Saudi investment in Pakistan.
According to a Foreign Office announcement, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman will undertake a two-day visit to Pakistan on February 16 and 17. Qureshi said that a high-powered Saudi delegation, including key ministers and over 20 businessmen from leading companies, would hold meetings with their counterparts in Pakistan and discuss potential of bigger investment projects.
"With the visit of Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are going to witness an unprecedented level of closeness based on solid economic integration," Qureshi said. He added that the MoUs relating to diverse sectors, including investment, finance, power, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports, will be signed.
The foreign minister rejected the notion that Pakistan was being pushed into the conflict in Yemen. "I say it loud and clear that there is no condition attached with Saudi investment," he said while replying to a question.
Continuing, he said that Commander of the Islamic Coalition General Raheel Sharif during a meeting with him [Qureshi] the other day had made it clear that the force was not specific to any country or group.
Responding to another question, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that Pakistan enjoyed brotherly relations with Iran. The visit of Crown Prime Muhammad bin Salman would not upset Iran. On the contrary, he added, Iran would he happy.
When asked if the Saudi investment could be part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that Pakistan and China had agreed on setting up three special economic zones, which could be joined by other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
He said a Pak-Saudi Coordination Council would be set up following the visit, where Prime Minister Imran Khan would personally lead the monitoring of the implementation of MoUs. He mentioned that Saudi Arabia had recently transferred $3 billion to Pakistan and also promised oil on deferred payment.
Qureshi said that the government wanted to rid the country of begging bowl. "The Investment which the government has brought to Pakistan in the past seven months is more than the investment previous governments brought to the country in past 10 years," he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry termed Saudi Arabia a strong and trusted friend of Pakistan. "Saudi Arabia has always helped Pakistan in testing times," he said. "This is for the first time after former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that Pakistan has attained immense success at the diplomatic front."
Prime Minister's Adviser Razak Dawood said that Saudi Arabia had plans for $7 billion investment in the power sector for two years, besides $2 billion in renewable energy, including solar and wind projects. On the Saudi interest to explore Pakistan's oil refinery sector, he said the feasibility study by their experts on petrochemical complex and hydro cracking could take up to 12 to 15 months.
He said Pakistan was in high need of refined oil products, for which Saudi Arabia had shown willingness to meet the needs of local oil market with an investment of $2 billion for two years in addition to investment in Pakistan's mining sector.
BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif said that Saudi Arabia had comprehensive long-term stakes in Pakistan. Following the visit of the Saudi crown prince, the BoI would remain in constant touch with their Saudi counterparts on technical level, he said.
He mentioned that Saudi Arabia was planning to develop two new cities and the situation would encourage Pakistani workforce to be accommodated in diverse jobs.
Qureshi, when asked if the Kashmir issue would be taken up with the Saudi crown prince in view of his visit to India next week, said that Saudi Arabia was a member of the Contact Group on Kashmir and through its representative had made clear statements supporting the stance of Pakistan.