MBS: Architect of a new Saudi-Pak bond


John Maxwell once said that a leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. No exaggeration, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman stands true to Maxwell’s stated set of ways by leaders. After decades of intra-regional conflicts and chaos, the Crown Prince has put the Arab world on a way that leads to economic development. That is a huge shift from the traditional outlook of an oil-producing region that is becoming one of the thriving economies of the world.

The present time tells us that the engine of growth is Saudi Arabia, leading the way for its neighbors. The magician behind this phenomenal turnaround is, of course, the young, dynamic and reformist leader - Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman - who has put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on a transformational path and is turning it into a booming economic force.

The entire Pakistani nation welcomes Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman on a state visit to Pakistan, leading a huge official delegation. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman plans to sign investment agreements and MoUs amounting to $20 billion with Pakistan, and a major deal set to be signed concerns an oil refinery in Gwadar.

This visit will always be remembered as a watershed in the history of Saudi-Pakistan relations as both governments will ink 10 agreements and MoUs for investments in tourism, technology, food processing, construction, defense production and others.

Pakistan also has opened a new vista of opportunities for new investors and Saudi Arabia has been a major investment partner for the past two decades. I will be honored to witness this historic moment and also will be signing two different agreements between the ministries of interior of the two countries.

Pakistan today is itself turning into a thriving economy. Pakistan, under its new leader Imran Khan – the visionary Prime Minister of Pakistan – is fast becoming a new destination for foreign investors and tourists.

In December 2018, Pakistan was ranked the number-one attraction for global tourism lovers out of 20 other adventure travel destinations by the British Backpacker Society. The society also considered Pakistan’s northern region as the friendliest country in the world with mountain scenery that is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

This is a trust vote for a revolutionized Pakistan which has adopted an Open Visa Policy, opening Pakistan for tourists and investors coupled with a reform agenda under visionary Imran Khan. The new government has departed from the country’s traditional outlook of a security state into an open, thriving economic state eager to engage its neighbors and distant friends to form a new bond of global and regional peacemakers.

Pakistan is playing a key role in preserving peace and harmony among Middle East states and it is also being acclaimed for its peace maneuvers in the Middle East and Afghanistan under the peaceful neighborhood policy of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has been lauded by President Donald Trump and other world leaders for his outright support for the Afghan peace process. Stability and peace in Afghanistan will not only help the region return to peace and tranquility but a peaceful Afghanistan will also open new doors to regional and trans-regional trade and investment through greater connectivity between the East, Central Asia, the Arab world, Africa and Europe.

Pakistan today is a safe, secure and investment-friendly destination for global tourists and investors with reformed institutions and a new outlook. It is about time for investors to move into Pakistan and explore investment opportunities as Prime Minister Imran Khan has introduced a policy where investors will attain maximum benefits and the government’s tax regime and visa policy are investment-friendly while ease of doing business is ensured.

As I write these lines, I can see from the window of my office the charismatic Faisal Mosque that is an icon of Saudi-Pakistan friendly relations. The mosque is only one of many other projects that portray the long-lasting, time-tested and historic Saudi-Pak relationship that has stood the test of times. Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are now moving together in a pursuit of renewed partnership that will benefit our peoples and will pay dividends to generations to come.

Pakistanis across the country hold the most favorable perception of Saudi Arabia and its leadership and recent public surveys have recorded that 95 percent of Pakistanis view Saudi Arabia favorably. Pakistan, as one of the strongest military powers in the Muslim world, has maintained a unique position in assisting Saudi Arabia with its defense needs.

Saudi Arabia is the major host state for overseas Pakistanis as around 24 percent of Pakistani expatriates live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - the largest expat destination for Pakistan. Over the years, our expats have contributed a lot in the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a modern and thriving economy.

As a student of political history, I am aware of the fact that the names of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and Prime Minister Imran Khan will be remembered for generations because with their collective resolve and shared wisdom, they are taking practical steps to translate the excellent bilateral relationship into economic cooperation.

As Minister for Interior, I will keep working diligently to provide a safe, secure and peaceful environment to all foreign investors and companies working on projects in Pakistan. I will also be working closely with my Saudi Arabian counterpart to jointly wage a front to combat crimes and terrorism.

I will also endeavor to put in place the necessary agreements and MoUs to ensure that no individual or group can harm or jeopardize the excellent friendly ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Since war on corruption is very close to the hearts of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and since both have made major gains in this regard, my focus will be to ensure that no individual or company involved in fraud or corrupt practices goes scot-free, harming the trust of foreign or local investors.

Witnessing this historic visit is a dream I will always cherish, as I am a witness to history in the making. With our brave, farsighted and sincere leaders shaking hands to take the two nations to new highs, I stand tall and feel proud in being a part of this process which is set to usher in a new era of friendship and brotherhood.

Long live Saudi-Pakistan friendship!

The author is Minister of State for Interior, Government of Pakistan Shehryar Khan Afridi