Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan greets Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Nur Khan air base in Rawalpindi on Sunday. (AP)
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.


New technologies help increase number of flights, passengers in Saudi Arabia’s airports — GACA

Updated 24 March 2019
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New technologies help increase number of flights, passengers in Saudi Arabia’s airports — GACA

  • More than 99.86 million passengers departed or arrived through 771,828 flights in the Kingdom's international and domestic airports in 2018
  • GACA is due to host Global Aviation Summit 2019 on April 1 and 2 in Riyadh

JEDDAH: New technologies applied in Saudi Arabia's airports has contributed to aviation growth in the Kingdom and has provided solutions for passenger’s trips, air cargo and investments, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has said.

GACA earlier reported an 8 percent increase in passenger numbers and 4 percent in flight rates in 2018.

It said more than 99.86 million passengers departed or arrived through 771,828 flights in the Kingdom's international and domestic airports in 2018, compared to 92.42 million passengers on board 741,293 flights in 2017.

"The GACA is keen to adopt plans to develop the Kingdom's airports network in order to keep pace with the steady increase in air traffic, increase the reliability of services, maximize geographic coverage and enhance the contribution of the airports to the overall economic growth of the country," it said.

For example, it said, GACA provides information through technology to reduce paperwork, operating costs and streamline business processes while reducing time to address them.

Most prominent among these e-services is the “Self-Services at the Kingdom's airports” that include check-in kiosks that provide boarding passes and luggage identification cards and self-service baggage drops that allows passengers to self-check their luggage.

It also provides self-scanning devices for bags in the arrival halls, ensuring that all baggage and other cargo arrive at the airport through the installation of electronic gates for the passage of freight vehicles before being emptied into the luggage compartment. 

Electronic gates and document scanning machines ensure that a traveler's information is correct and that boarding passes, passports, national identity and residency are valid.

Other services include airport operations systems and flight information display for some domestic airports.

To ensure accuracy in the flight schedules, GACA said it is working on a project to link the Saudi Arabian Airlines traffic management system to the Airport Management System, of which 50 percent has been completed.

GACA is due to host Global Aviation Summit 2019 on April 1 and 2 in Riyadh to review the infrastructure projects for airports and smart airports, the available opportunities to operate the airports and provide advanced services and consultations in civil aviation, among others.