PM leaves for KSA on first foreign visit since election

In Local
April 06, 2024

Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif embarked on his inaugural foreign visit since assuming office, jetting off to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Saturday, as the newly-formed government seeks to unlock opportunities in the strategic sectors, particularly in Reko Diq — one of the largest copper and gold reserves in the world.

The trip, scheduled from April 6 to 8, marks a significant diplomatic engagement for Pakistan. The premier is accompanied by federal ministers Including Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Aurangzeb, Abdul Aleem Khan, Attaullah Tarar and Ahad Khan Cheema. Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz also accompanied the prime minister.

The prime minister, after his arrival in KSA, would stay in Madina. During his visit, the premier will perform Umrah and offer prayers at the Masjid Nabwi Al-Sharif, the Foreign Office said in an earlier press release.

The prime minister is expected to meet Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and discuss issues of mutual interest. The leaders will also exchange views on regional and global developments.

Also read: Saudis may invest $1b in Reko Diq

Pakistan and KSA have longstanding fraternal relations rooted in religious and cultural affinity. The people of Pakistan have the deepest respect and regard for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, it was added.

The leadership of both countries is committed to advancing fraternal ties and mutually rewarding economic and investment relations.

In addition to financial support, Pakistan has lately been trying to secure Saudi investment in industries ranging from agriculture to mines, minerals and aviation. Islamabad says Riyadh has shown interest in acquiring government stakes in the Reko Diq gold and copper mine, which could be a major deal for the country’s economy.

The government has prepared a comprehensive plan to bag an investment of over $1 billion from Saudi Arabia in the Reko Diq Copper-Gold Project located in Balochistan’s Chaghi district.

The plan, prepared by the finance and energy ministries as well as the Board of Investment, has been presented to the prime minister. Federal Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb will give a special briefing to the kingdom’s investors on the investment plan in the project.

Saudi Arabia will also be given special incentives to invest in the project and the finance minister will inform the investors about them during his briefing.

Sources said the size of Saudi Arabia’s investment transaction in the Reko Diq Copper-Gold Project would be the largest even though the Canadian firm, Barrick Gold Corporation, owns a 50% stake in the mine.

The major investment in the project is being made through the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC). The council was established to attract foreign investments, especially from the Gulf nations. In September last year, it unveiled a new visa policy, targeting increased investments from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations and other countries.

The sources said the SIFC had been taken into confidence in connection with the Saudi investment in the project as well as the plan chalked out for the purpose.

With additional input from APP

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