Mohammed bin Zayed first UAE leader to visit Pakistan after 12 years

Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrives at the Nur Khan Airbase in Islamabad on Sunday. (APP)
Updated 06 January 2019

Mohammed bin Zayed first UAE leader to visit Pakistan after 12 years

  • Was received by PM Khan at the airport and honored with a 21-gun salute
  • Follows launch of 40 projects worth $200mn as per an agreement between the two countries

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.

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

Updated 12 January 2020

Pakistan ‘wants to play its role’ for peace in Middle East – FO

  • Work on foreign minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States being done
  • Pakistan’s strong relations with regional countries has made it an important player

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Thursday that the country was going to play its role in restoring peace in the Middle East by working with other international stakeholders in the region.

“Pakistan welcomes de-escalation and wants to play its role in ensuring peace and stability in the region. We have seen that indication in United States President [Donald] Trump’s speech and are evaluating its contours,” the country’s foreign office spokesperson, Aisha Farooqui, said in her weekly media briefing in Islamabad on Thursday.

She said that Pakistan’s geographical position, along with its strong relations with regional countries and the United States, had made it a significant player in the Middle East.

“Pakistan has maintained that war is not the solution to any issue and made it clear that it will not become part of any regional conflict,” she said.

The spokesperson noted that Islamabad had enhanced its efforts to defuse tensions in the region and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had contacted his counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and many other important states in this connection.

“All the international players, including Saudi Arabia, have said that the region cannot afford another war and asked for restraint from both parties [the US and Iran]. It’s a collective objective of all countries to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East,” she said.

Commenting on the foreign minister’s upcoming visit to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the US, she said that “work on these tours has already started and they will take place as soon as dates are finalized with the respective countries.”

“We are very mindful for our brotherly and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other regional countries. Pakistan and the US also enjoy longstanding relations and have contacts with each other through multiple forums including political and military leadership,” Farooqui said, adding that the foreign office had established a task force to continuously monitor the situation in the Middle East and inform the government about it along with its suggestions on a daily basis.

The spokesperson expressed hope that recent developments in the Middle East would not affect the ongoing Afghan peace process.

“Pakistan hopes that progress made on Afghan peace process will not come to a halt and the world community will not lose its focus as a result of the ongoing tensions in the Middle East,” she said.

Asked about the safety of Pakistani nationals in Iraq, she said the country’s embassy in Baghdad was on the alert to deal with any emergency situation.

“We are concerned about the safety of Pakistani citizens in Iraq and have issued an advisory in this regard. We have also instructed our mission in Baghdad to remain vigilant to deal with any emergency,” Farooqui said.