Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who is also the deputy prime minister and defence minister of the oil-rich kingdom, arrived in Islamabad on Saturday, kicking off a three-day visit to Pakistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif welcomed the visiting dignitary at the Noor Khan airbase. A 21-gun salute heralded the crown prince’s arrival when his special plane touched down and an armed forces contingent presented him the guard of honour. Extraordinary security arrangements for the crown prince’s stay were made earlier in the day.
The visit – the highest in profile after Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal’s last month visit – is scheduled from February 15 to 17 and aims at further enhancing brotherly relations between the two countries.
According to the Foreign Office, the Saudi crown prince is expected hold talks with the prime minister on bilateral and international matters of mutual interest. Among other senior dignitaries, the ministers of defence and finance, the National Assembly speaker, the premier’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, and the army chief will be calling on the crown prince.
Key topics on the agenda include ways to increase the export of Pakistani manpower to Saudi Arabia and facilitate the Pakistani community residing in the kingdom.
In her weekly briefing to the media on Thursday, FO spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam had said that although other defence matters were expected to come up for discussion, there was no specific reference to the stationing of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia.
Crown prince meets the president
Soon after his arrival, Prince Salman met President Mamnoon Hussain at the Presidency. The president warmly welcomed the crown prince and the two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional and global matters of mutual interest.
President Mamnoon said the Pakistani government was keen to further strengthen strategic cooperation and diversify existing ties with Saudi Arabia. He thanked King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the Saudi government for the generous assistance extended to Pakistan in every hour of need.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2014.