PM, Saudi Crown Prince resolve to boost bilateral ties

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on Monday expressed the resolve to further strengthening the strong, longstanding Pakistan-Saudi Arabia fraternal ties.

The two leaders in a telephonic conversation also exchanged views on issues of mutual interest, the PM Office said in a statement.

PM Sharif conveyed his deep respects to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

During the telephone call, the Crown Prince congratulated the prime minister and the people of Pakistan on 75th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence.

The Crown Prince also conveyed best wishes for the continued progress, prosperity and development of Pakistan.

The prime minister and the Crown Prince reviewed the progress made on the decisions taken by the two sides during the visit of the Prime Minister in April 2022.

They resolved to expedite the ongoing cooperation in investment, energy and trade fields.

Recalling the historic support extended by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan in times of need, the prime minister thanked the Crown Prince for the economic and development support provided to Pakistan in recent times.

The prime minister reiterated his cordial invitation to the Crown Prince for a state visit to Pakistan, which he graciously accepted.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday directed to ensure the provision of Rs. 50,000 relief to each flood affected family in the flood hit areas through a transparent process within the three days.

Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) will provide Rs. 50,000 cash relief to every flood affected family under the supervision of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), he added.

The Prime Minister was presiding over a meeting of the Relief Coordination Committee constituted for the flood affected areas.

The meeting was attended by Federal Ministers Miftah Ismail, Ahsan Iqbal, Marriyam Aurangzeb, Murtaza Javed Abbasi, Maulana Asad Mehmood, Advisor to PM Qamar Zaman Kaira, Chairman NDMA Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz and relevant senior officials.

Minister for Housing Maulana Abdul Wasay, Chief Minister Balochistan Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and Member Provicial Assembly (MPA) Balochistan Sanaullah Baloch attended the meeting through video-link.

The Prime Minister further said that the disbursement of cash relief should be ensured through electronic transfer so that the deserving people get relief.

He directed the Flood Relief Coordination Committee to finalize the process of Rs. 50,000 cash relief disbursement and present its report by today evening.

The Prime Minister said that the joint survey in coordination with the provincial governments for the assessment of flood-related losses should be completed in three weeks instead of five weeks.

The provincial governments should also cooperate and coordinate with NDMA regarding the joint survey at the earliest and to ensure timely relief for the flood affected people, he added.

The Prime Minister said that it was the provincial governments’ prerogative to become part of the federal government’s flood relief efforts, adding, however, the federal government will ensure the relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people through its own resources.

He also directed the Minister for Information and Broadcasting to formulate a comprehensive awareness campaign in that regard.

The meeting was told that a survey will be conducted in coordination with the provincial governments to assess the damages caused by the recent spell of rains and floods.

It was further told that by the time survey was completed, the government, through BISP, will provide Rs. 30,000 cash relief to each flood affected family.

The Prime Minister, however, directed to enhance the cash relief to Rs. 50,000 for each affected family and disburse the same under the supervision of NDMA.

The meeting was further told that as the federal government was in contact with international donors and other welfare institutions, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank have already assured to provide necessary funds for the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and rehabilitation activities in the flood affected areas.

Besides, the meeting was told that teams of doctors and paramedics have been sent to the flood affected areas and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was assessing the damages in affected educational institutions.

Chief Minister Balochistan and Provincial Chief Secretary briefed the meeting in detail about the life and material losses in Balochistan due to recent rains and the rescue and relief measures taken by the provincial government.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday stressed the need to urgently operationalize the Transit Trade Agreement and Preferential Trade Agreement with Uzbekistan in order to fully unlock the immense bilateral economic potential.

The prime minister, in a meeting with Ambassador of Uzbekistan Oybek Usmanov, who paid a courtesy call on him, reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to provide transit access to Central Asian Republics to the ports of Karachi, Bin Qasim and Gwadar.

He highlighted Pakistan’s vision for deeper engagement with Central Asia and the important role of Uzbekistan in this regard.

He expressed satisfaction at the level of close and fraternal relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan and emphasized the importance of further deepening bilateral trade and economic ties.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif underlined the significance of Trans-Afghan Railway Project to advance the connectivity agenda and promote regional prosperity.

He also invited Uzbek investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) of Pakistan, particularly in industrial, electronics and agricultural sectors, which would accrue mutual benefits.

The prime minister stressed the closer collaboration in education, tourism and cultural spheres to promote people-to-people contacts.

Underlining the importance of direct bilateral air connectivity, he urged the respective national airlines to start operations at the earliest to facilitate the movement of businessmen, students and tourists between the two countries.

Ambassador Oybek Usmanov conveyed greetings from the Uzbek president for the prime minister and said that President Shavkat Mirziyeyov was looking forward to welcome him to the SCO Summit at Samarkand next month. — APP slot