Exclusive: Pakistan’s Defense Minister slams ‘internationalization’ of Hajj debate, reiterates Islamabad commitment to Riyadh

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan speaks at the launch ceremony of the Arab News Pakistan edition at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Thursday. (AN photo)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Exclusive: Pakistan’s Defense Minister slams ‘internationalization’ of Hajj debate, reiterates Islamabad commitment to Riyadh

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Minister of Defense Khurram Dastgir Khan has slammed media reports calling for the “internationalization” of the Muslim holy pilgrimage (the Hajj).
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Dastgir said: “We are determined not to be misled or waylaid by such stratagems. The custody of the Two Holy Mosques is a sacred trust that has been held by the Kingdom and we expect and hope that it shall continue to be,” he said.
Dastgir’s comments came on the sidelines of a keynote speech that he gave at the inauguration of the Pakistan edition of Arab News at the Islamabad Marriott on Thursday evening.
He said the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan has “turned a new page,” going beyond the “traditional friendship” both nations have enjoyed over several decades.
The Pakistani defense minister said the relationship had been “stuck in the eighties” but is now transforming “into a more serious and determined partnership not only (in the field of) defense but also in the realm of economics and trade” to enhance and expand bilateral ties.
“Pakistan intends to be an important part of the Vision 2030 of his Highness, the Crown Prince (which) he has (envisaged for) Saudi Arabia,” Dastgir said.
Part of the defense cooperation plan Pakistan wishes to have is to manufacture “some measure of defense equipment” in the Kingdom. He said it was imperative for Islamic countries to take concrete steps toward “self-reliance” for their own “security and defense.”
“Talks are proceeding very fruitfully and we expect to have very good results,” Dastgir said.
He added that Afaal Al-Sahil, the fourth joint exercise of Pakistan and Saudi Navy operation forces currently underway until Feb. 16, is just one of “many more exercises” to come. Pakistan expects to hold combined training with Saudi security forces alongside its army and air force to enhance operational skills against terrorism and to exchange professional capabilities.
“This cooperation has turned a new page,” said Dastgir, reiterating his country’s support for Saudi Arabia. “Pakistan has always been there for the Kingdom and we shall continue to be there.”
Speaking earlier to an audience of diplomats, foreign dignitaries, academics and journalists who attended the launch of arabnews.pk online edition, the Pakistani defense minister welcomed the arrival of the media outlet to Islamabad.
“I am delighted that the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who have been a steadfast partner of Pakistan throughout our existence, in a new and very interesting and exciting way through Arab News have decided to become part of this emerging, remerging, rebirth of the Pakistan story.”
“My congratulations to the Pakistan team, which is launching this new edition. I commend the editors — the rapidly graying editors as they say — of Arab News and its owners for taking this far-sighted decision to become part of the success of the Pakistan story. Congratulations and I wish you success,” he said.


A jubilant Saudi Arabia celebrates its past, present … and future

Updated 38 min 32 sec ago
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A jubilant Saudi Arabia celebrates its past, present … and future

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said National Day is an opportunity to recall the achievements of the country’s founder
  • Saudi Arabia’s friends around the world outdid themselves in expressing their wishes to the Kingdom

RIYADH/JEDDAH/DUBAI:  It was a day that captured the heightened spirit of a nation.

In a year of remarkable changes, Saudi National Day on Sunday took on an exuberance like no other celebration before it, with enough fireworks to break a world record, people celebrating together outdoors across the land and landmarks around the world illuminated with the flag. 

In a speech marking the Kingdom’s 88th National Day, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman praised the nation’s growth under King Salman, saying that while Vision 2030 “looks forward to the future,” Saudi Arabia “will remain committed to the principles” of Islam, “the religion of tolerance and moderation.”

The crown prince said National Day is an opportunity to recall the achievements of the country’s founder, King Abdul Aziz, and his sons. “On our National Day, we take pride in our country’s position on an international, Islamic and Arab level.” 

His sentiments were echoed by citizens, who gathered last night in 20 cities to watch more than 900,000 fireworks light up the sky.

Laser light show at a Jeddah stadium Sunday night as part of National Day celebrations. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“I am so happy with all the changes going on under the visionary leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi women are happy to join the National Day parades, this year behind the wheel,” said Saudi actor and presenter Khairiah Abu Laban.

“We went around the city to see the lighting and the fireworks,” said Saleh Al-Omri, a pharmacist in Riyadh. “Green and white balloons fill either side of Riyadh streets.”

Saudi Arabia’s friends around the world outdid themselves in expressing their wishes to the Kingdom over the weekend, culminating on the day. 

The Burj Khalifa was illuminated with the Saudi flag, while the Nasdaq Tower’s digital billboard in New York’s Times Square was lit up with photos of King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the flags of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

In Lebanon, Pigeon Rocks, in Raouché off the coast of Beirut, were lit in the colors of the Saudi flag. 

The UAE’s airlines got in on the game. Emirates operated a special one-off A380 service on Sunday to Riyadh, and crew handed out scarves emblazoned with the countries’ flags.

Not to be outdone, Etihad said it was using the only Saudi A380 pilot in the world, Wesam Sameer Al-Najjar, to fly its Year of Zayed plane to Jeddah with the UAE’s Captain Ahmed Almalood. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, King Salman added an extra day, Monday, to the holiday.

Air show by the Saudi Royal Air Force in Jeddah in celebration of National Day. (SPA)