By Shehryar Khan Afridi
American author John Maxwell once said: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands true to that saying. After decades of regional conflicts and chaos, the crown prince has put the Arab world on a path to economic development.
The engine of growth is Saudi Arabia, which is leading the way for its neighbors. The magician behind this phenomenal turnaround is the young, dynamic, reformist crown prince, who has put the Kingdom on a transformational path to becoming a booming economic force.
The entire Pakistani nation awaited Sunday, when he landed at Noor Khan Airport on a state visit, leading a huge official delegation. While the crown prince plans to sign investment agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) amounting to $20 billion with Pakistan, a major deal set to be signed involves an oil refinery in the city of Gwadar. That day will be remembered as a watershed in the history of Saudi-Pakistani relations, as both governments will ink 10 agreements and MoUs on investment in tourism, technology, food processing, construction and defense production, among other fields.
Pakistan has opened a new vista of opportunities for investors, and Saudi Arabia has become a major investment partner in the past two decades. I will be honored to witness this historic moment, and will be signing two agreements between the countries’ interior ministries.
Under visionary Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan is fast becoming a thriving economy, and a destination for foreign investors and tourists. In December 2018, the country was ranked top among 20 adventure travel destinations by the British Backpacker Society. Pakistan has adopted an open-visa policy, opening itself for tourists and investors, coupled with a reform agenda under Khan. The new government has departed from the country’s traditional outlook of a security state into an open, thriving economy 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 fostering peace and harmony among Middle Eastern states, and it is being acclaimed for its peace efforts in the region and in Afghanistan. Khan has been lauded by US President Donald Trump and other world leaders for his outright support for the Afghan peace process.
Stability and peace in Afghanistan will spread to the region, and will foster trade and investment through greater connectivity between the Far East, Central Asia, the Arab world, Africa and Europe. Pakistan today is a safe, secure and friendly destination for tourists and investors. It is about time that investors explore opportunities in the country.
As I write these lines, I can see from the window of my office the charismatic, Saudi-funded Faisal Mosque, one of the many icons of friendly relations that have stood the test of time. Both countries are now moving together in pursuit of a renewed partnership that will benefit our peoples and generations to come.
According to public opinion polls, 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 helping the Kingdom with its defense needs. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has always helped Pakistan whenever necessary.
The Kingdom is the biggest host state for overseas Pakistanis, with around a quarter of Pakistani expats living there. Over the years, Pakistani expats have contributed a lot to the Kingdom’s transformation into a modern and thriving economy.
As a student of political history, I know that the names of the Saudi crown prince and Pakistan’s prime minister will be remembered for generations. Their resolve and wisdom are taking practical steps to translate the excellent bilateral relationship into economic cooperation.
As interior minister, I will keep working diligently to provide a safe, secure and peaceful environment for all foreign investors and companies working on projects across Pakistan. I will be working closely with my Saudi counterpart to form a joint front against crime and terrorism.
I will also try to put in place agreements and MoUs to ensure that no individual or group could harm or jeopardize the excellent ties between the two countries. Since the war on corruption is very close to the hearts of Khan and the crown prince, and both have made major gains in this regard, my focus will be to ensure that no individual or company involved in fraud or corruption goes scot-free.
Witnessing this historic visit is a dream I will always cherish, as I will witness history in the making. With our brave, farsighted and sincere leaders shaking hands to take the two nations to new highs, I will stand tall and feel proud of being part of this process, which is set to usher in a new era of friendship and brotherhood. Long live Saudi-Pakistani friendship.
(The author Shehryar Khan Afridi is Pakistan’s Minister of State for Interior Affairs. He wrote this article at the eve of state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Pakistan.)