ISLAMABAD - Mr Turki Alshabanah, Media Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has reached Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistani officials on cooperation between the two brotherly countries in various spheres.

Minister Alshabanah, speaking at a reception for Pakistani media at the residence of the Saudi Ambassador His Excellency Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, said, “Saudi Arabia is the home of Pakistanis. It is the place most traveled to by Pakistanis for Umrah and Hajj.”

He said, “Providing improved services every year for Al Hujjaj is considered a kind of Ibadat, and a duty that Saudi Arabia takes very seriously.”

Relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are growing stronger and stronger with the passage of time and the support and goodwill of the military leadership under the guidance of Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa has enabled Pakistan to take them to new heights during his tenure. The top leadership acords highest priority to ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and a new chapter of ties started when Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) visited Pakistan in February this year. The Saudi royal had won the hearts of Pakistani nation when he said in English (without involving any interpreter) that he was Pakistan’s ambassador to KSA. Never before had a leader of any foreign country expressed so much affection for the host country.The frequency of Saudi dignitaries’ visits to Pakistan has also gone up.Imran Khan’s love for Saudi Arabia is also established by the fact that KSA was the first country he visited after taking over power as a result of July 25 last year’s elections. It was on Sept 18 and 19, 2018. He visited KSA again on October 23 and 24. For a third time he visited KSA to participate in the OIC summit on May 30 and June 1.

The KSA authorities had given special importance to his delegation and had opened doors of the Holy Ka’aba for them, a rare honour.

A large number of Pakistanis are working in KSA in various fields. There will be no exaggeration in saying that they are playing an important role in contributing to the development of the oil-rich Kingdom. Pakistan has always said that it will stand by KSA in case of any threat to its security.

Pakistan’s former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif is heading Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition based in KSA. The cabinet had given him special permission to lead the force.

He had assumed the role of commander-in-chief of this coalition on May 29, 2017.The main objective of the force is to strengthen the contribution of Islamic countries towards global security and peace, and complementing international counter terrorism efforts; reinforce solidarity and collaboration among coalition member countries to present a unified front against terrorist organizations and their attempts to destabilize security and distort the image of Islam and Muslims; counter radical ideology in coalition member countries through strategic communication campaigns to refute the radical and extremist narratives and propaganda; reaffirm the moderate values of Islam and its principles of peace, tolerance and compassion; combat terrorism financing in collaboration with Coalition member countries and international CTF authorities, to promote compliance with international agreements and advance legal, regulatory, and operational frameworks; and establish strategic partnerships between member countries, supporting nations and international organizations to share counter terrorism information and expertise.

KSA is also playing an important role in addressing economic problems of the world’s only Islamic nuclear state. When Pakistan became the 7th nuclear power in May 1998, KSA met Pakistan’s oil requirements for many years without making any announcement. This enabled Islamabad to offset the impact international sanctions.

Now when Pakistan is again facing economic difficulties, KSA has started supplying it oil on deferred payment basis. The facility will continue for three years. The facility worth $275 million per month started in July this year and will continue for three years. The total value will be $9.9billion.

What is really remarkable is the role played by Crown Prince MBS in making Pakistan’s top leadership’s recent US visit successful and bringing Pakistan closer to USA.

The meeting that PM Khan held with President Donald Trump led to a new phase of ties between the two countries whose bilateral relations had been strained for the past many years.

The closeness between the two countries has been seen during all periods.