ISLAMABAD. – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Monday reiterated his faith in Pakistan’s leadership and said Prime Minister Imran Khan was here to put the country in the right direction.
“We believe in Pakistan’s future and that it has a huge opportunity. It will become a large economy by 2030,” he said while addressing a joint press conference along with PM Imran at the Nur Khan Airbase in Rawalpindi, which marked the end of his first state visit to the country since becoming the heir to the throne.
The crown prince said Saudi Arabia sees Pakistan as a developed nation of the future and will continue to do more for its progress. “In 2030, Pakistan will be next to two huge economies. One, China will be the largest economy in 2030, and two, India will be the third-largest economy so Pakistan will definitely benefit from these neighbours. We can see it happening.”
“We saw the Pakistani economy grow by 5 per cent in 2018 so we believe that Pakistan has huge potential, it could be one of top 20 economies in the future, easily. If the efforts of the leadership, the people of Pakistan, and their allies come together, definitely it can reach that one day.”
“So because of that, we believe in Pakistan. Because of our long relations we want to be part of that journey and we want to risk our money, to risk our efforts, to start from day one,” he said, adding that his visit and subsequent trade-offs were “just the beginning”.
Speaking on the occasion, PM Imran thanked MBS for ordering the release of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners detained in Saudi jails on minor charges. A day earlier, the premier, had requested the crown prince to take measures for the early release of 3,000 Pakistani prisoners jailed in the Kingdom.
PM Imran said with the gesture, the crown prince had become a popular figure in Pakistan as the entire nation was thankful for his act of kindness.
“I woke up this morning and when I looked at my mobile phone, I realised – after your statement last night saying that you would be Pakistan’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia – that if you stood in elections here, you would get more votes than me.”
He also noted that with the signing of the new agreements, the existing relationship between the two countries has managed to expand beyond its “narrow confines” and is now “developing into other spheres”.
“But what I feel is that this is just the beginning,” he asserted. “I think Pakistan’s geostrategic location, the comparative advantage Saudi Arabia has in certain areas, and the advantages that Pakistan has – the combination augurs very well for the future.”
“We want you to consider Pakistan your second home. The PM House, where you were staying, rest assured that when you are in Pakistan you can consider it your own house and come and stay there,” he told MBS.
Prince Mohammad responded to the prime minister’s offer by saying that he also feels “at home in Pakistan”.
The crown prince then bid goodbye to PM Imran and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa before boarding the plane and waving to the crowd from the top of the steps. Next on his itinerary is a trip to India scheduled for February 19.
According to the joint statement released on the conclusion of the royal visit, Crown Prince Mohammad praised openness and efforts of Prime Minister Imran for dialogue with India and the opening of the Kartarpur crossing point. He stressed that dialogue is the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region.
The two sides also agreed on the importance of political settlement and promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan so that millions of Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries can return to their country and contribute to their development and lasting peace. The Saudi side appreciated Pakistan’s generous hosting of millions of Afghan refugees and other initiatives by Pakistan in the Afghan context.
During MBS’s visit to Pakistan, agreements worth over $20 billion were signed between Islamabad and Riyadh in diverse sectors.
The two countries discussed ways to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of cooperation, significantly enhancing bilateral ties in all spheres.
The agreements included areas such as oil refining, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and mineral development besides those pertaining to cooperation the fields of water, power, investment, finance, renewable energy, internal security, media, culture and sports.
Besides the royal treatment that the prince received during his visit to the country, he was also conferred upon Pakistan’s highest civil award, Nishan-e-Pakistan, at an investiture ceremony hosted at the Presidency. – Pakistan Today