ISLAMABAD: Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces arrived in Islamabad on Sunday as part of his first official visit to the country where he was received by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“The crown prince, upon the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, is visiting Pakistan after nearly 12 years,” a statement released by Pakistan’s Foreign Office read on Sunday.
It added: “This is the third interaction between the leadership of the two countries in less than three months -- a testimony to the special brotherly relations with the GCC country.”
PM Khan had embarked on his first visit to the UAE in September last year where the two leaders had discussed joint cooperation in various fields of mutual interest. They had also decided to work closely in order to benefit the people of both nations, particularly as the two countries are interlinked by common traditions, values, and strong bilateral ties.
During his second trip in November, PM Khan had reached out to the UAE for financial assistance in order to tackle Pakistan’s economic crisis. In return, the UAE promised to provide $3 billion as support for its balance of payments issue, in addition to providing oil supply on deferred payments.
The two countries had also agreed to chalk out a comprehensive roadmap to accelerate cooperation and partnership in areas specific to trade, investment, economic development, energy, infrastructure, and agriculture.
PM Khan and Sheikh Mohammed had also decided at the time that the next Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission -- to be co-chaired by the respective Foreign Ministers of both countries -- in Abu Dhabi, in February this year.
Both the leaders also reviewed several areas of cooperation between the UAE and Pakistan and exchanged views on regional and international developments of mutual concern.
“UAE-Pakistan ties are based on a strong history of cooperation and respect. Relations between the two countries will continue to prosper across all fields,” Shaikh Mohammad had said at the time.
The UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and is home to more than 1.6 million expatriates who contribute nearly $4.5 billion to the country’s GDP every year.
In order to further strengthen their relationship, the two countries launched the UAE Pakistan Assistance Program (PAP) which aims to oversee development in five key areas namely, infrastructure, education, healthcare, water, and agriculture, at a cost of approximately $200 million.
Implementation of the projects has already begun. “Under the latest directives given by Crown Prince Zayed Al Nahyan, the implementation of 40 development and humanitarian projects started in Pakistan at a cost of $200 million,” the UAE Embassy in Pakistan tweeted on Sunday.
Funded by the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, the projects include the construction of the 42-kilometer Khyber Pakhtunkhwa highway, a 65-kilometer highway in Balochistan, construction of a college and two schools for 1,500 students in Balochistan, and the construction of a cardiac hospital in Quetta.
Nearly 29 other projects are being dedicated to ensuring the steady supply of water to villages and cities that have limited access to clean drinking water. The projects will also include the construction of the first date factory in Pakistan.
The UAE-PAP’s mission is to execute development projects that offer sustainability and continuous benefits to residents in the long run. The program’s first and second phase saw a total of 165 projects being implemented between 2011 and 2017, at a total cost of $420 million.
The four infrastructure projects completed by UAE-PAP, at a total cost of $121 million, include the 50-kilometer Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Road, the 72-kilometer Pak-Emirates Friendship Road, the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Bridge and the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Bridge.
As per the directives of the crown prince, the UAE-PAP constructed four roads and bridge projects worth $121 million, which included the reconstruction of two flood-destroyed bridges along the Swat River and two new roads in southern and northern Waziristan. These are some of the most vital projects to be undertaken as part of infrastructure development measures in remote areas in Pakistan.
In education, the UAE-PAP took the initiative to build and equip 60 educational institutions, at a cost of $41.5 million, as per international standards.
The program also sponsored health projects which were the top priority in the UAE’s humanitarian efforts to support Pakistan’s healthcare sector, especially in remote areas which lack basic and vital services. These include seven hospitals, clinics and medical institutes equipped with up-to-date medical facilities in Swat, Bajaur, and Dir, in addition to the construction of four hospitals in South Waziristan.