Sources say King Salman has approved special economic assistance package for Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman separately and discussed with him matters of mutual interest.
According to media reports, the meetings discussed important issues. Sources said that the meetings between both the Sharif brothers and the crown prince were successful and would yield positive results.
After the meeting, Nawaz departed for Madina in Muhammad Bin Salman’s private plane where he visited the mausoleum of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and then left for Makkah via Jeddah to perform Umrah. He will return to Islamabad on Tuesday night while Shehbaz returned to Lahore earlier in the day.
Putting all rumours regarding his recent visit to Saudi Arabia to rest, Shehbaz Sharif told journalists after arriving in Lahore that there was nothing unusual about the six-day-long trip. “Saudi Arabia invited me to offer Umrah [pilgrim] and there is nothing unusual about going there on a snap trip,” he said after inspecting facilities in a recently inaugurated kidney transplant centre in the provincial capital.
The Punjab CM, however, added that he will hold a detailed media talk on the Saudi visit soon.
The younger Sharif said that Saudi Arabia was one of the most friendly countries towards Pakistan and had always trusted the country blindly.
“These are not fake statements or rhetoric but genuine relations [between the two countries],” he added.
“In Pakistan’s 70-year-long history, Saudi Arabia has always sincerely and unconditionally helped and supported us, not only in natural calamities but at diplomatic and international fronts also,” he remarked.
Declaring the Arab country his ‘second home’, the Punjab CM said there was nothing unusual about his sudden trip, where he enjoyed ‘remarkable hospitality’ shown to him by the hosts.
“Have some fear of the Almighty, some say a special plane came and others say it was a private jet,” he remarked in response to a query regarding an NRO-type deal during the trip.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have been criticising the Sharifs’ visit and accusing the government of trying to negotiate a deal to save the Sharif family from accountability. On Monday, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari said that an agreement might be “cooking” in the country.
Sources, however, informed Pakistan Today that during the visit, Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif were treated differently by the Saudi royal family as King Salman looked unhappy with Nawaz Sharif’s anti-army campaign, launched following the court verdict against him.
They said that in an unprecedented diplomatic snub, the Saudi royal family gave a cold shoulder to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and conveyed to him not to target the state institutions, especially the military establishment.
The sources further revealed that Nawaz, who is also the chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has been conveyed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman that Nawaz Sharif’s campaign against Pakistan Army may destabilise the country, which is actually the agenda of “enemies of Islam”.
“Saudi Royal family believes in a strong, stable and economically thriving Pakistan. Since Pakistan is very close to Saudi Arabia, the royal family has lots of stakes in it. They want a stable and thriving Pakistan,” the sources said.
They further said that on Pakistan’s request, incumbent King Salman has approved a special economic assistance package for Pakistan and soon a high ranking Saudi delegation would be visiting Islamabad, possibly in a fortnight’s time, which would announce the package. “The package would include immediate financial aid, oil on deferred payment mode and some other initiatives,” the sources added.
It is pertinent to mention here that during their recent visit to Riyadh, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had sought help from the royal family, seeking some immediate financial injection as well as provision of oil on deferred payment mode to help Pakistan meet the requirement of debt payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
According to sources, Saudi regime had also downgraded the protocol to Nawaz Sharif during his stay, which was a discreet message for the ousted premier. The sources said that due to the downgraded protocol, Nawaz Sharif had to travel on Saudi airline. On the contrary, Shehbaz Sharif was given an elaborate protocol, they said.
“Not only an official aeroplane had been sent to receive Shehbaz Sharif from Lahore, his meetings with Mohammad bin Salman and other officials were also scheduled on priority. However, Nawaz Sharif had to wait longer for a meeting with the Saudi crown prince while he was denied audience with King Salman,” the sources added.
“The former premier was given the message through various officials who act as intermediaries,” they said.
When asked to comment on the rumours that Sharif family had been summoned to Saudi Arabia regarding Saudi investigation into money laundering allegations against Sharifs, the sources said they had not heard of any such probe. “We are not aware of any such probe. It looks out of context,” the diplomatic sources asserted.