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Mohammed bin Salman Touches Pakistani Soil, Receives Red-Carpet Welcome

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, his cabinet and COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa receives Saudi Crown Prince at airport

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ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman landed at an airport in the federal capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, on a two-day state visit today evening.

MBS was accorded red-carpet welcome by Prime Minister Imran Khan along with his cabinet members at Nur Khan airbase.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa also reached the air base to extend warm welcome.

Upon arrival, a historic welcome was given to the Saudi crown prince, widely known as “MBS”, who is accompanied by a high-powered delegation, including members of Saudi Royal family, key ministers and leading businesspersons.

Saudi Prince Salman left for Prime Minister House after arrival, where he will be presented a guard of honour. PM Imran himself drove the car to the PM House.

When Saudi crown prince’s plane reached Pakistani air space, Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 Thunder and F-16 jets took the plane into its protective circle.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with other officials reached the airbase to receive his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir.

Officials said a 19-member, high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia reached Islamabad earlier today amid tight security.

This is the first official visit of the dignitary to Pakistan since his elevation to the position of Crown Prince in April 2017.

During his visit, Mohammad bin Salman will meet President Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will sign a number of agreements and MoUs in diverse sectors.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to sign a record investment package with Pakistan, including a $10 billion refinery and oil complex for the strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman said Islamabad is seeking to sign a number of other deals, including one “combating organised crime”.

The two countries will also discuss ways and means to develop a robust follow-up mechanism to ensure effective implementation and quick progress on tangible areas of cooperation.

The Saudi ministers accompanying the crown prince will meet their counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation in their respective fields.

A red-carpet welcome

Pakistan rescheduled flights, blocking-off luxury hotels, and — according to one report Friday — collecting 3,500 pigeons and colourful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The crown prince had originally been due to arrive on Saturday but the Pakistan foreign ministry released a statement late Friday saying the visit had been delayed by one day, with the programme unchanged.

Banners heralding the crown prince were already lining the streets of the capital, while a local newspaper reported that the authorities were trying to catch so many pigeons for a welcome ceremony that they were forced to collect birds from other cities.

Police, the armed forces, and the Saudi Royal Guards will provide security, a senior Islamabad police official told AFP.

The capital’s “red zone”, which houses Parliament House and the Presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the prince’s arrival and departure.

Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as the rooms will be reserved for the prince’s entourage.

A public holiday has been declared in Islamabad today in view of the occasion.

After Pakistan, MbS will travel to India, where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

He is expected to finish the trip with a visit to China on Thursday and Friday.

Two short stops initially scheduled for Sunday and Monday in Indonesia and Malaysia were postponed on Saturday without explanation.

The Asia trip comes five months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a fierce critic of MbS, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul ignited a diplomatic crisis.

Riyadh initially denied the murder, then gave several conflicting accounts of Khashoggi´s death, and now claims he was killed in an unauthorised operation.

Turkey said Friday it has not yet revealed all the information it has uncovered in the extraordinary case, which launched a global wave of revulsion and has profoundly tarnished the image of the kingdom, especially that of the crown prince.

But for analysts, the Asia tour — the largest outing on the international scene for the crown prince since his participation in the G20 summit in Argentina last December — is a timely demonstration to the West that he still has friends in rising Asia.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since coming to power last summer.

The crown prince´s visit to Islamabad will also apparently coincide with possible new talks between the Taliban and the United States on Afghanistan.

SOURCE: GEO NEWS AND NEWS AGENCIES