Saudi crown prince likely to visit Pakistan in October

The much-anticipated visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is likely to take place in the first week of October, official sources familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

Pakistan has been pushing for a visit from Saudi de facto ruler for months. The Saudi crown prince visited India recently to attend a G20 summit and later for a state visit. There were reports that the Saudi leader might make a brief stopover in Islamabad but later the plan was shelved.

Sources said the foreign office suggested that instead of Saudi crown prince making a stopover for a few hours it was better he would be invited for a state visit on separate dates.

Insiders revealed that both sides were in contact with each other to finalise the dates for the visit. It is expected that the Saudi ruler may visit in the first week of October. Because of the likely visit of the Saudi crown prince, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar postponed his trip to Saudi Arabia. He was earlier to travel to the Kingdom before leaving for the UN General Assembly session in New York.

Pakistan has high hopes of the impending visit of Saudi crown prince against the backdrop of economic crunch. Authorities are confident that the visit of Prince Mohammad would pave the way for much-needed investment the country has been seeking as part of efforts to address the economic challenges.

A Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) was set up recently as part of efforts by the military leadership to attract investment from the Gulf countries.

Saudi Arabia has been identified as the major country to chip in with billions of dollars investment.

Sources said during the visit of MBS, both sides are expected to announce major investment projects. One project includes the setting up of an oil refinery in Gwadar. The multibillion dollar project was first announced during the visit of MBS in February 2019. However, no further progress was made due to various reasons including tensions between the PTI government and Saudi Arabia.

The project, however, was revived after the military leadership pushed for investment from Gulf countries. As part of the plan, Pakistan has also shown interest in selling shares of Reko Diq mines to Saudi Arabia.

In one of the recent interactions with the business community in Lahore and Karachi, Army Chief General Asim Munir reportedly said that he expected an investment of $70 billion from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

This would be the first visit of the Saudi crown prince to Pakistan since he last visited in February 2019. He was supposed to travel to Pakistan in November last year but the visit was cancelled due to imminent change of army command in Pakistan.

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