Saudi crown prince visit to Pakistan postponed

FO says new dates will be mutually finalised by two sides


Kamrani Yousaf November 12, 2022
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (L) meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (R) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on April 30, 2022. PHOTO: SPA

ISLAMABAD:

The much-anticipated visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan was postponed, Foreign Office officials confirmed on Saturday without citing any reasons.

"The visit is being rescheduled. New dates will be mutually finalised by the two sides," Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra told The Express Tribune. She would not provide any further details.

The Saudi de facto ruler was to travel to Islamabad on November 21 -- his first visit in over four years that Pakistan was hoping would bring an other financial bailout package.

Salman also postponed his visit to neighboring India as well as other Asian countries. Now, he would only attend the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Though no official reason was given about the postponement, sources said multiple factors, including current political uncertainty and the appointment of new army chief might have played a key role.

One individual, who was consulted by the Saudi authorities about the visit, told The Express Tribune that Riyadh was confused whether to go ahead with the visit considering the prevailing political situation in the country. The said individual added that lack of preparation by Pakistan was also to blame.

Read more: Saudi crown prince’s Pakistan visit on track despite political upheaval

Other sources did not rule out the army chief's appointment as the main reason behind the postponement. They were of the view that Saudi Arabia's main interlocuters in Pakistan were the army. Therefore, it didn't make any sense that the Saudi crown prince visits just days before the appointment of new army chief.

One source claim that it was possible that when the visit was being planned the Saudis might have got the impression that incumbent army chief might stay on. But since the military's media wing recently confirmed that Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa would retire on November 29, this would have compelled the Saudi authorities to postpone the visit till the new army chief takes charge.

Pakistan considered the visit of the Saudi de facto ruler as crucial as it expected yet another financial bailout package from the kingdom.

Pakistan was hoping to secure a $13 billion financial bailout package combined from Saudi Arabia and China in order to deal with the dwindling foreign reserves.

Finance minister Ishaq Dar had said that during the prime minister’s recent visit to Beijing, China assured that it would roll over $7.3 billion loan and provide additional $1.5 billion.

 

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