Pakistan to confer its highest civilian award on Saudi crown prince

Published: February 15, 2019
PM Imran will personally receive Prince Mohammad at Nur Khan Airbase tomorrow. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

PM Imran will personally receive Prince Mohammad at Nur Khan Airbase tomorrow. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman will be conferred with Nishan-e-Pakistan – the highest civilian award — during his upcoming visit to the country this weekend.

Preparations are finalised to give an “unprecedented warm welcome” to the visiting dignitary, who will be received personally by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members at the Nur Khan Airbase on Saturday evening, sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune on Friday.

Banners heralding Mohammad bin Salman on his maiden visit as crown prince are already lining the streets of Islamabad.

Commuters ride past billboards showing portraits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan displayed on a roadside ahead of the prince’s arrival in Islamabad on February 15, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

The federal capital’s “red zone”, which houses the Parliament House and the Presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the royal guests’ arrival and departure.

Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as rooms will be reserved for the prince’s entourage.

Opposition ‘not invited’ to banquet in honour of Saudi crown prince

Earlier in the week local media reported that the crown prince’s personal belongings — including luxury vehicles and his own gym — were flown to Pakistan in two C130 airplanes.

The premier will also accompany Prince Mohammad on the way to the PM House, where the royal guest will be presented the guard of honour by a smartly turned out contingent of the armed forces. PM Imran will introduce his cabinet members to the Saudi prince, who will then hold a one-on-one meeting with the former.

The Saudi guests will be provided a three-layer box security from the military airbase to the PM House. Triple-one brigade of the country’s armed forces and Saudi Royal Guards will jointly perform the security duties on the occasion.

Saudi experts, equipped with latest GPS traffic system, will further ensure security of the travellers. All highrise buildings between the airport and the prime minister’s official residence will be occupied by sharpshooters from 4am tomorrow while commandos will also be deployed at all flyovers and overhead bridges on the way.

The delegation-level discussion will follow the meeting between the two leaders, according to the reviewed tour itinerary. Nine memorandums of understandings (MoUs) will be signed after the high-level huddle, sources added.

Security of royal visit assigned to army

Prime Minister Imran will host a dinner for the crown prince at the PM House tomorrow evening.

The visiting dignitary will also be the chief guest at a luncheon at Aiwan-e-Sadr (Presidency) the next day and will meet President Dr Arif Alvi following the banquet, which will also be attended by the crown prince’s 100-member delegation and the Pakistani ministers and other high-level civil and military officials.

Prince Mohammad bin Salman will then be awarded the country’s highest civilian award at an auspicious ceremony at the Presidency. The royal entourage will then be taken to airport under strict security.

Around 12,000 officials and personnel belonging to triple-one brigade, Rangers, Zarrar anti-terrorist unit and air defence will be deployed in the twin cities on Saturday and Sunday, said the sources.

Metro train service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad will remain suspended over the weekend while hiking tracks on Marglla Hills will also be shut to ensure foolproof security of the royal guests.

Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the two-day visit, including a $10-billion refinery and oil complex for the strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman said Islamabad is seeking to sign a number of other deals, including one “combating organised crime”.

PM Imran has been courting its Gulf allies for months as he seeks to stave off an ongoing balance of payments crisis and reduce the size of any potential bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have together offered Islamabad some $30 billion in investment and loans.

With additional input from AFP

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