Pigeons and balloons as Pakistan prepares for Saudi crown prince’s visit

A banner in Islamabad welcomes the Saudi visit. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2019
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Pigeons and balloons as Pakistan prepares for Saudi crown prince’s visit

  • Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the crown prince’s visit

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was rescheduling flights, blocking off luxury hotels and, according to one report on Friday, collecting 3,500 pigeons and colorful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the crown prince’s visit, which will include talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Banners heralding the crown prince were already lining the streets of the capital on Friday, while the Express Tribune newspaper reported that authorities were trying to catch so many pigeons for a welcome ceremony that they were
forced to collect birds from other cities.

Police, the armed forces and the Saudi Royal Guards will provide security, said a senior Islamabad police official.

The capital’s “red zone,” which houses Parliament House and the presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the crown prince’s arrival and departure.

Officials said that Pakistan had taken measures to ensure that fool-proof security arrangements are in place ahead of the royal visit.

“The main security arrangements have been handed over to the army,” said Islamabad Capital Territory Police spokesman Naeem Iqbal. “The police will assist the army and ensure a smooth flow of traffic in the city.”

A traffic plan has been devised to avoid congestion on the main roads, he added. 

When asked about the deployment of police personnel, he said: “Around 4,000 personnel have been deployed in the city. All the important locations are manned, including the entry and exit points of the federal capital.”

Iqbal added that 1,200 security pickets were being set up at different points of the city. Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as the rooms will be reserved for the crown prince’s entourage.

Local media reported earlier in the week that his personal belongings, including luxury vehicles and his own gym, were flown to Pakistan in two C130 airplanes.

The crown prince is expected to sign a range of agreements worth up to $15 billion, including deals for three power plants in Pakistan’s Punjab province and an oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the coastal city of Gwadar in Balochistan province.

“We’re working with full speed on technical and feasibility studies for the establishment of the oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar … and will perform the ground-breaking by early 2020,” Pakistani Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Arab News.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman said that Islamabad is seeking to sign a number of other deals, including one “combating organized crime.”

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are participating in talks with the US and other countries seeking to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with Kabul after more than 17 years of war.


Man arrested for London mosque shooting

Updated 23 May 2019
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Man arrested for London mosque shooting

  • The suspect was charged with possession of firearms with intent to cause harm or fear
  • Police say the suspect may have had a fight earlier in a nearby street

DUBAI: A man has been arrested after he fired a gun in a London mosque, UK daily The Metro reported.

The man entered the Seven Kings Mosque in London, on Thursday, May 9, while worshippers performed Ramadan prayers and fired a gun, the report added.

He was arrested on charges of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
There were no reports of injuries or damages to the building, ballistic evidence suggests the detainee may have used a blank-firing handgun, police said.

Police investigations said it is possible the incident started after an earlier argument in a nearby street.

A mosque attendee, Ibraheem Hussain, said he heard the gunshot almost half an hour after prayers began, adding that he was concerned for the safety of worshippers.

“(Christchurch) comes to mind, it’s crazy to think this would happen in London, especially after everything that has happened,” he told Metro.