19 pilgrims killed, 22 hurt as bus overturns

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Updated 20 March 2016
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19 pilgrims killed, 22 hurt as bus overturns

RIYADH: Nineteen pilgrims were killed and 22 injured, all of them Egyptians, when their bus overturned in western Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning. Among those injured are two women and a child.
Preliminary investigations have revealed that the driver, an Asian, dozed off and lost control over the bus, leading to the ghastly accident along the Madinah-Makkah highway.
The accident comes three days after a bus carrying Palestinian pilgrims overturned in a remote area of southern Jordan, killing 16 passengers.
“The bus was carrying the pilgrims to the Holy Capital for Umrah when the accident happened on the Al-Hijrah road, around 135 km away from Madinah,” Brig. Nawaf bin Nahis Al-Mohammadi, director of Madinah Traffic Department, said.
Khalil bin Sahli, Saudi Red Crescent spokesman in Madinah, said the emergency operations (997) received a report at 4.51 a.m. on Saturday morning regarding the accident. A total of 14 ambulance teams were immediately dispatched to the scene of the accident, he said. “The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals in the region for treatment.”
The crisis and emergency department at Madinah health department sounded an emergency in all the hospitals in the region soon after the accident.
Twelve of the injured were admitted to hospitals in Wadi Al-Fara Province and 10, including the two women and the child, were admitted to the Miqat Hospital in Madinah.

Jordan accident
In the Jordan accident, an Alna Shama bus veered off the road in the accident late Wednesday in Maan, near Jordan’s border with Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported, quoting Farid Sharea, a spokesman for Jordan’s Civil Defense department.
Injured passenger Azzah Ibrahim said he remembers the bus overturning. “Some of us were beneath the bus, and some of us were inside the bus, between the chairs,” Ibrahim said from his hospital bed in the southern city of Maan, about 70 kilometers from the scene of the accident.
Sharea said heavy equipment was used to lift the bus and pull nine bodies from underneath the vehicle.
The windows of the mud-smeared bus were shattered. Glass shards, passengers’ crumpled clothing and empty water bottles were strewn on the floor of the vehicle.
The passengers, all from the West Bank, had been on their way to a Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Bassam Hijawi, an official at the Palestinian Embassy in Jordan, said five critically injured passengers were flown by helicopter to the Jordanian capital of Amman. Three others, who were in serious condition, were evacuated to a hospital in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, he told the Voice of Palestine.

(Additional input from The Associated Press)


Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Updated 18 February 2019
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Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

  • Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy
  • Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major transformation is underway in Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with Pakistan, according to Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, a former ambassador to Islamabad.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the former envoy said greater interaction between business and the private sectors in both countries will take the historical bond “to a new level.” 

Asseri, who spent nine years in Islamabad and was the second-longest serving Saudi ambassador to the country, said: “We know that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed an incomparable level of understanding and friendship based on religion, culture and values. There is a historical bond between the two countries. 

“I have no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking a cohesive approach to strengthen the relationship and take it to another level.” 

Asseri said that while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperated closely on security matters, bilateral trade between the countries remained limited to about $4 billion. 

“We need to ... encourage the private sectors to interact more. We can help Pakistan’s industry and we need to become more involved in the trade sector. There are advanced industries and firms in Pakistan, and they have raw materials — it’s a good environment for investors.”

Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy. The Kingdom is also making billion-dollar direct investments in the country in line with the China-Pakistan economic corridor. 

“I am happy to see a major transformation underway in Saudi-Pakistani economic relationships with our leadership and government deciding to invest in the economic development of Pakistan,” he said. 

The former ambassador said frequent official visits between the two countries were important. 

“I came back recently from Pakistan, and the vibe of the media, government and people was so optimistic. Pakistanis were excited about the crown prince’s visit. People hope it will bring great opportunities for the economy as well as strengthening the political and social ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asseri said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had faced many challenges together in recent decades.

In 2001, during Asseri’s first year as Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York led to greater cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in dealing with terrorism.

The Kingdom had been closely involved with Pakistan since its independence, he said. “King Abdul Aziz sent King Saud and Prince Faisal to Pakistan at that time. So if we go back through history, we can see that this relationship is truly unique.” 

Asseri also highlighted the ties between the two countries on humanitarian issues, security and military issues, saying: “Pakistan has suffered serious security and humanitarian consequences of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, besides housing millions of Afghan refugees.

“Together Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have worked for peace in Afghanistan and will do whatever it takes to achieve this long-desired goal.”

Asseri said Pakistanis were quick to show their appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s assistance in the past regardless of the change in Pakistani leadership over the years. 

“The relationship is unique because it is between people. Such a relationship (will) keep growing with every generation.

“When Pakistan was in a difficult position in 2005 after a devastating earthquake, Saudi Arabia went out of its way to provide the support it needed. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and eight ministers visited Balochistan. Field hospitals were created with Saudi doctors treating people and performing surgery there.” 

Pakistan also has a deep loyalty to Saudi Arabia, Asseri said. “Pakistan has military expertise, and through cooperation between the two countries, it helped the Saudi military during its development.” 

“The Kingdom’s recent appointment of a Saudi commercial attache in Pakistan will also bolster the economic links between the two countries,” he said. 

“There are good minds in Pakistan and good products that could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia.”

Asseri said he is also optimistic that Saudi plans to build a major oil refinery in Gwadar will help create an “economic hub.” 

The former envoy said the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan will add to the relationship between the countries. 

Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom. 

“Young Pakistanis who are advanced in the IT and industrial sectors are looking forward to helping and cooperating with Saudi Arabia, and sharing their experiences and knowledge,” he said.