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International Affairs

Pakistan Saudi Arabia Relations Rooted in History

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia on a threshold of a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan

Pakistan-KSA multidimensional relations rooted in history with religious, economic, strategic and defense cooperation

Amer Malik

The multi-dimensional relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia may potentially bring stability in the region by latter’s help in setting up a consensus government in Afghanistan under existing favorable circumstances with all stakeholders willing to move towards achieving the coveted objective.

“Saudi Arabia is on the threshold of a historical moment to add another feather to its crown as the stage is set with all stakeholders including US, Pakistan, Afghanistan government and its people agreeing for a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan,” said veteran political analyst Haroon Rasheed in Pakistan while talking to The Herald Report.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s two-day scheduled visit to Pakistan extending by one day, fortunately, perfectly coincides with Taliban leaders’ scheduled talks with US envoys on Pakistan’s invitation in Islamabad on February 18. The high-profile visit of Saudi Crown’s heir-apparent Mohammad bin Salman was rescheduled from February 16 & 17 to February 17 & 18.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a history of cordial relations by their side ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit that may prove instrumental in establishing peace in the war-torn Afghanistan and terrorism-plagued Pakistan post-9/11 attacks of 2001.

Haroon Rasheed said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia relations go beyond traditional cooperation between two states as it has more to do with hearts and minds, leading to emotional and sentimental attachment of the peoples of the two countries. “The multidimensional relations with religious, economic, strategic and defense cooperation between the two countries are rooted in history that date back to the establishment of Pakistan in 1947.”

He further added that Saudi Arabia has always helped Pakistan morally as well as financially, which is once again manifested in KSA’s assistance to Pakistan in negotiating with its balance of payments crisis with a loan of $3 billion and another $3 billion worth of oil on deferred payment. While on the other hand, Haroon Rasheed said, Pakistan has always stood by Saudi Arabia to defend its sovereignty against any foreign military adventure on the holy lands, which is manifested in establishment of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), led by Pakistan’s former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General (retd) Raheel Sharif, to protect Saudi Arabia’s strategic interests in the region.

He said that the combination of charismatic Prime Minister Imran Khan and prudent COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa can deliver dividends for Pakistan on internal as well as external fronts. “Pakistan has played a vital role in pacifying escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, thanks to the crucial and tactful role played by COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa while keeping sensitivities in mind.

He said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are set to enter into new economic cooperation in wake of KSA’s investment in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with the establishment of an oil refinery at Gwadar Port at a proposed cost of $10 billion. “Pakistan must also seek to get job-oriented investments from Saudi Arabia that will help bring economic prosperity to people and Pakistan,” he emphasized.

Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami, a veteran journalist in Pakistan, said that Saudi Arabia had a deep influence in Pakistan’s political, economic and spiritual spheres. “Both countries were part of anti-socialist and anti-Soviet blocs that speaks of an identical foreign policy that was also reflected in their support of the idea of a free world. He said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s similar foreign policy was further reflected in KSA’s support of Pakistan’s stance of not recognizing Israel’s legitimacy and then in Pakistan’s support to Saudi Arabia during Iraq and Kuwait wars.

He said that King Faisal had a very positive and parental influence in Pakistan’s political arena as he had brought Bangladesh and Pakistan’s Prime Ministers Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto together during the historic Islamic Summit held in Lahore in 1974 to ease out tensions in their strained relationship. “King Faisal also played a reconciliatory role between the then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and nine right-wing political parties during their Pakistan National Alliance’s (PNA) movement,” he said.

The Faisal Mosque in Islamabad and Faisalabad, formerly known as Lyalpur, are named after King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami said that Saudi Arabia also helped Pakistan financially as well as oil on deferred payment, when the latter was facing sanctions after conducting nuclear tests on May 28, 1998. Later on, that Saudi Arabia again hosted former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif along with his family when he was sent in exile by the then President General Pervez Musharraf.

Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami further said that a large number of Pakistanis had been working in Saudi Arabia, who contributed approximately $10 billion in annual remittances to Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.

Altaf Qureshi, former leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and companion of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were all-weather friends, who had always helped each other in thick and thin.

He recalled a historic episode of close proximity and personal relationship between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and King Faisal, saying that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had imposed tough conditions for loans to cash-strapped Pakistan. “On Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s request, King Faisal came to Pakistan’s rescue and threatened to withdraw Saudi Arabia’s liquidity from US’ banks, which brought IMF to its knees. The IMF, which had earlier given a cold shoulder treatment to Pakistan’s delegation, requested them for a meeting in their hotel and agreed to provide loan on ZA Bhutto’s conditions,” he explained his cherished recollections.

Allama Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, Chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council, said that people of Pakistan welcomed Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to Pakistan, saying that the visit would prove to be a harbinger of glad tiding of economic stability and prosperity of Pakistan. “The roads and streets of Islamabad and Lahore wear a festive look, which have been decorated with banners and steamers inscribed with welcoming and greeting phrases of “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” for the royal dignitaries from the holy lands of Harmain-ul-Sharifain,” he added.

Having brought substantial financial assistance and investment from Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Imran Khan, also loving known as Captain due to his former status as a cricketer, has played a masterstroke. Having seen off the shine of economic challenges with its fierce opening burst on a fast-paced political pitch, though at a slow economy rate to his critics’ disliking, the Captain surely has set the platform for his apparently weak line-up to accelerate and chase down the economic targets at a faster rate to eventually win it for Pakistan, once again. In a repeat performance – this time on a political turf, Khan leads from the front, again.

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