PESHAWAR: The stage is set, as are the residents of Pakistan, for the historic visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on February 16.
Syed Jalal, a 57-year-old tea stall owner in Peshawar’s busy Super Market termed the visit as the beginning of a new era of mutual trust. “The relationship between Pakistan and KSA has been colorless in the past few years,” he said, adding that the new government wants “respectable, cordial and brotherly relations with the most important and sacred Saudi Arabian government.”
A thought that was echoed by other returnees from the Gulf country.
Rickshaw driver Amjad Khan, 30, has few years of experience working in Saudi Arabia which he described as the best of his life. “I was a laborer in Pakistan but earned enough in Saudi Arabia to own three rickshaws and feed my family without any difficulty,” he said.
Thousands of Pakistanis work in the health, education, construction and other developmental sectors of the Kingdom. According to the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment website, in December last year, 1,00,091 Pakistanis were employed in various sectors of the country.
In January this year, overseas Pakistanis contributed $403.92 million in remittances, as per statistics revealed by the State Bank of Pakistan. Remittances from KSA are the highest followed by those from the UAE, UK and the US.
For decades, the Saudi government has assisted Pakistan and its people in the worst of its times, Khan said, adding that this time, too, the crown prince’s visit was “to support Imran Khan’s government in this bad spell.”
“Imran Khan wants to get rid of it’s dependency on the Americans and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the crown prince’s visit is a step toward greater economic and defense relations,” Anwar Shah, a dry fruit vendor, said, adding that the “Pakistani people would be in the front line, if any country dares a misadventure against Saudi Arabia”.
“Narrowing the gap between Arab countries and Pakistan is much needed now, the moderate crown prince would knot both nations accurately this time”, fruits vendor Iqbal Shah, 43, stated. “We are of the same belief and share alike Islamic values and culture, lets stand with each other against enemies” he added.
Said Bacha hails from the Khyber district of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and worked for more than 30 years in KSA as a barber. “I have seen splendid rulers,” he said. “The crown prince’s visit will further strengthen the warm, friendly and affectionate relations of both the Muslim nations.”
Beside the bilateral and trade ties, a huge number of Pakistanis visit the Kingdom to perform Umrah and Hajj holy cities.