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Pakistan was represented at the Inauguration Ceremony of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul

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Pakistan was represented at the Inauguration Ceremony of President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul . We extend our felicitations. The people of Pakistan are linked to the brotherly people of Afghanistan through immutable bonds of history, geography, faith, kinship, culture, language, and customs and traditions.

We wish our Afghan brethren a future of hope and opportunity, says a press release received from the office of the Spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, here today. At this crucial juncture in their national life, we hope the Afghan leaders would proceed with wisdom and foresight, eschew blame-games, resolve mutual differences, and unite in the supreme interest of their country.

The signing of the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement in Doha on 29 February 2020 has created a historic opportunity for the people of Afghanistan and a pathway to intra-Afghan negotiations. We believe it is imperative to seize this historic moment and work together constructively for securing durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, as a shared responsibility, would continue to facilitate the Afghan peace and reconciliation process for bringing an end to the 19-year old conflict through a comprehensive and inclusive, negotiated political solution that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Pakistan reaffirms its support for a peaceful, stable, united, sovereign, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

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Economy

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are back on track

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is visiting Saudi Arabia at the personal invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Riyadh ahead of this high-profile visit to lay the groundwork for what is being described by the media as a major boost in Saudi-Pakistan ties, especially in terms of economic, trade and environmental cooperation.

This augurs well for the two brotherly countries, as their historic friendship faced an unfortunate rupture last year.

Luckily the leadership on both sides was resilient enough to see through the challenge and bring Saudi-Pakistan ties back on track.

To be sure, this resilience is rooted in the people-to-people relationship, which eventually helps them overcome temporary glitches and sustain cooperation on issues of mutual concern and interest. This time is no different — and here is why.

Soon after his election as prime minister in August 2018, Khan was able to develop a personal relationship with the crown prince.

He traveled to Saudi Arabia twice in the next two months, the second time at the personal invitation of the crown prince to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference as part of Saudi Vision 2030.

Khan had inherited a serious balance of payments crisis. So Saudi Arabia took the lead in offering a financial relief package of $6.2 billion, including $3 billion in loans and a $3.2 billion deferred oil payment facility.

Taking a cue from Riyadh, the UAE followed suit by offering $6 billion in additional support to Pakistan.

When the Saudi crown prince visited Pakistan in February 2019, he was personally driven by Khan to the prime minister’s house in Islamabad, up on the hill in Islamabad.

In another example that symbolized the personal chemistry between the two charismatic leaders, the crown prince cheerfully told the Pakistani premier: “I am your ambassador in Saudi Arabia.” (Later in the year, the crown prince would offer his personal plane to Khan to fly to New York for the UN summit. And even while Saudi-Pakistan ties briefly experienced a bad spell in 2020, Khan declared: “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will always remain close friends.”)

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That historic visit to Pakistan by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019 witnessed a major transition in Saudi-Pakistan strategic relations in the economic sphere, with the announcement of $20 billion of Saudi investments in Pakistan, including a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the strategic port city of Gwadar.

The rest of the investments were in the mining and renewable energy sectors.

This was in parallel with the efforts to sign the Free Trade Agreement to increase the volume of bilateral trade, which was worth $2 billion.

In the past, the two nations cooperated closely in security and geopolitical matters, and Saudi economic help was confined to oil concessions. Now, for the first time, the Kingdom was interested in the long-term economic development of Pakistan.

This promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by breakthroughs on different fronts.

Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri

In particular, the choice of Gwadar for such an investment stake indicated the Saudi inclination to join the wider regional integration network: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In the natural order of things, the next logical step would have been to jointly work out the development plans for the proposed Saudi economic projects in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, international forces inimical to Saudi Arabia’s exceptional position in the Muslim world, and the historic Saudi-Pakistan alliance, could not digest the fact that the two brotherly nations were taking their relationship to a different level, where their interests could be geo-economically intertwined in future.

What happened next is a sad part of our current history, which is not worth recalling.

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What is worth stating, however, is that Saudi Arabia is, and will remain, the heart of Islam for the Muslims of the world, and no other country can claim such a right: That the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the sole representative body of 57 Muslim countries and no attempt to create an alternative Muslim bloc will ever succeed; and, of course, the fact that Saudi-Pakistan ties are well-rooted in the love and affection that their people have for each other, and hence no conspiracy can hamper their organic evolution as historic partners.

That is why the false narrative regarding the OIC’s role in Kashmir did not take hold for long. That is why the dismal portrayal of Saudi economic support for Pakistan finally failed the test of times.

Fortunately, both nations have formal and informal channels of communication to overcome any instance of grave misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation impacting their relationship.

Their bond is unbreakable as it is founded on the will of the two peoples.

Hence, the two brotherly nations have always stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in difficult times. From defending the sanctity of the two holy mosques to defeating the scourge of terrorism, Pakistan has always been a key Saudi partner.

Likewise, Saudi Arabia has never disappointed Pakistan when it is faced with hard times, be it the wave of terrorism post-9/11 or the devastating earthquake of 2005.

The two countries also closely cooperate to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. The current or emerging Saudi engagement in Pakistan reflects the same spirit of camaraderie with Islamic roots.

In retrospect, what the visit of Prime Minister Khan to Jeddah shows is that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is back to the level it was at when the crown prince visited Islamabad more than two years ago.

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The decision by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to roll over $2 billion loans to next year implies the resumption of their respective financial relief packages, which Pakistan desperately needs to ward off the devastating effects of the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The visit is expected to kick-start work on the $20 billion Saudi development projects in Pakistan, especially the Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar.

To boost bilateral trade, a comprehensive customs cooperation accord is also reportedly on the agenda.

Moreover, General Bajwa’s almost week-long interaction with his Saudi counterparts, and the recent appointment of retired Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will ensure enhanced coordination in defense and the strategic relationship between the two countries.

In fact, this time the relationship is expected to deliver deeper cooperation beyond defense and the economy, on issues of climate change in particular.

Khan shares the vision of the crown prince as set out in the recently announced Saudi Green and Green Middle East initiatives, which align with his government’s Clean and Green Pakistan initiative.

And, luckily, this promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by the Saudi olive branch to Iran, the end of the Qatar crisis, and the India-Pakistan cease-fire in Kashmir.

These developments surely open up the diplomatic space for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to concentrate their joint efforts for economic development and regional stability.

• Dr Ali Awadh Asseri served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan from 2001 to 2009 and received Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Pakistan, for his services in promoting the Saudi-Pakistan relationship. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Beirut Arab University and authored the book ‘Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror’ (Oxford, 2009).

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Conflict

PAKISTAN STRONGLY CONDEMNS ATTACKS AT A SCHOOL IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

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Pakistan strongly condemns the reprehensible attacks at a school in Kabul, Afghanistan which led to loss of many precious lives and injuries. The Government and the people of Pakistan offer heartfelt condolences to the Government and the people of Afghanistan and pray for quick recovery of the injured.

Pakistan condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations. At this moment of grief, Pakistan stands by Afghan brethren in their struggle against the scourge of terrorism. Pakistan will continue to support Afghanistan on its path to peace, progress and prosperity.

Pakistan always wanted a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and has taken various initiatives to restore peace in Afghanistan .

ALSO READ:  Digital Pakistan Internship Portal Launched
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Joint Statement for the visit of the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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On the kind invitation, extended by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, His Excellency Mr. Imran Khan paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 7-9 May 2021, corresponding to 25-27 Ramadan 1442/AH. His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, warmly welcomed the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

2.The two leaders reaffirmed the historical and fraternal ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, reviewed all facets of bilateral cooperation and discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest. The two sides discussed ways to strengthen relations of the two brotherly countries in all fields, and agreed to intensify contacts and cooperation between government officials and the private sector in the two countries with the aim of promoting bilateral relations to the benefit of both countries.

3.His Excellency Prime Minister Imran Khan praised the leadership role of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in promoting Islamic unity, and the positive role of the Kingdom in resolving the issues facing the Islamic world, as well as its endeavours for regional and international peace and security.

4.The Prime Minister recalled his visits to the Kingdom in 2018 and 2019, as well as the historic visit of His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defence to Pakistan in February 2019, during which the two leaders jointly announced the launch of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council, to further enhance bilateral cooperation based on mutual trust, benefits and common interests of the two countries. The Crown Prince assured the Prime Minister of the Kingdom’s continued support to Prime Minister’s vision to transform Pakistan into a modern developed and welfare state.

5.The two sides discussed ways to strengthen and enhance economic and trade relations by exploring areas of investment and opportunities available in light of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision and Pakistan’s development priorities emanating from a shift from geo-politics to geo-economics. The discussions also focused on increasing cooperation in other fields, including energy, science, technology, agriculture and culture. Both sides expressed satisfaction at existing cooperation in bilateral military and security relations, and agreed to further augment collaboration and cooperation to achieve mutually agreed goals.

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6.The two leaders also discussed issues pertaining to the Islamic world. They stressed the need for concerted efforts by the Muslim countries to confront extremism and violence, reject sectarianism, and strive to achieve international peace and security. They also stressed the importance of continuing joint efforts to combat terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations. They reaffirmed that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization, or ethnic group.

7.In the constructive spirit of discussions, the two sides reaffirmed their full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, especially, their right to self determination and establishment of their independent state with pre-1967 borders and East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant UN resolutions. They also expressed their support for political solutions in Syria and Libya, as well as the efforts of the United Nations and its envoys in this regard.

8.The two sides also stressed the importance of supporting efforts to reach a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Yemen based on the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism, the outcomes of the comprehensive national dialogue, and the relevant Security Council resolutions, including Resolution (2216). They condemned the attacks of terrorist groups and militias, including Houthi militias, by ballistic missiles and drones on the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against vital installations and civilian objects. They expressed serious concern at the threats posed to the security of oil exports and the stability of energy supplies, which was vital for the progress and development of the region and its peoples. The Prime Minister praised the role of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the resolution of crisis in Yemen which aims at achieving peace and security in Yemen which will result in prosperity and development of the region and its people.

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9.Discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the Crown Prince acknowledged Pakistan’s facilitative role in the Afghan peace process. The two sides, underlining that an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement is the only way forward, urged the Afghan parties to realize the historic opportunity for achieving a political settlement in Afghanistan. The two leaders agreed to continue mutual consultations on the Afghan peace process.

10.Pakistan and Saudi Arabia agreed to continue supporting each other at multilateral fora. They agreed to further deepen coordination and cooperation to safeguard mutual interests and uphold the principles of fairness and justice. The two sides also stressed the importance of the commitment by all States to the United Nations Charter, the principles and decisions of international legitimacy, as well as adherence to the principles of good neighbourly relations, respect for the unity and sovereignty of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, and the endeavour to resolve disputes by peaceful means.

11.His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, welcomed the recent understanding reached between the military authorities of Pakistan and India regarding ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC), which is based on a 2003 understanding between Pakistan and India. The two sides emphasized the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to ensure peace and stability in the region.

12.The Prime Minister congratulated the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for successfully organizing and holding the G20 summit meetings and the positive decisions that resulted from it in economic, developmental, environmental, health, energy and other fields.

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13.Acknowledging the leading role of the Kingdom in addressing international issues, in particular the challenge posed by climate change, the Prime Minister welcomed “the Saudi Green and Middle East Green Initiatives” launched by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and hoped that the initiatives will have a positive impact on the region, its inhabitants and beyond. The Crown Prince appreciated the Prime Minister’s “Clean and Green Pakistan” initiative, as well as the successful “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” initiative.

14.The Prime Minister appreciated the efforts of the Kingdom and its leadership in serving the Two Holy Mosques, their pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors, especially in organizing the Hajj season for the past year 1441 AH, despite the challenges posed by the Corona pandemic.

15.In order to further strengthen and diversify bilateral relations, the following agreements and Memoranda of Understanding were signed; i. Agreement on Establishment of Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council (SPSCC); ii. MoU in Combating Illicit Traffic in Narcotics, Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Presursor Chemicals; iii. Framework MoU between SFD and Islamic Republic of Pakistan for financing projects in Energy, Hydropower Generation, Infrastructure, Transport & Communication and Water Resource Development; iiii. Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Combating Crimes; and v. Agreement on Transfer of Convicted Prisoners.

16.The Prime Minister expressed gratitude and offered his best wishes to His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, and the brotherly people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince warmly reciprocated with best wishes for the health and wellbeing of the Prime Minister, and prayers for the progress and prosperity of the brotherly people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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