‘Consider me in Saudi Arabia the ambassador of Pakistan’ — crown prince

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman have a one-on-one meeting at the Prime Minister House on Sunday, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, jointly co-chaired by the two leaders. The two countries signed $60 in agreements on the first day of a two-day state visit by the crown prince. (PID photo)
Updated 18 February 2019

‘Consider me in Saudi Arabia the ambassador of Pakistan’ — crown prince

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman kicks off two-day visit to Islamabad by signing seven agreements worth $20 billion
  • Pakistani PM Khan says Islamabad and Riyadh have elevated their relationship to “level where it has never been before”

ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to consider him the “ambassador of Pakistan” in Saudi Arabia moments after the two countries signed seven memoranda of understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals and others.

The MoUs were signed by Pakistani ministers and their Saudi counterparts on Sunday night in the presence of the crown prince and the prime minister and "cover areas such as Standard Specifications, Mineral Resources, Investment in Refining and Petro Chemical Sectors, power generation, development of renewable energy projects, and cooperation in the Field of Youth and Sports," the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement. 

The crown prince kicked off a rare Asian tour with a two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday evening. After Islamabad, he will travel onwards to India and China.

On a personal request by PM Khan to the Saudi crown prince to allow Hajj pilgrims to go through immigration procedures inside Pakistan and to look into the conditions of Pakistani workers, particularly prisoners, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said Saudi Arabia would do “whatever we can do” to oblige Pakistan.
“Just consider me in Saudi Arabia the ambassador of Pakistan,” the crown prince said amid applause by Saudi and Pakistani ministers, journalists and businessmen present at the banquet at the Prime Minister House.
He said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had signed investment MoUs worth $20 billion.
“It’s big for phase one, and definitely, it’s going to grow … and be beneficial for both countries,” the crown prince said. “We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future and we want to be sure that we are part of that.”
Earlier, the prime minister and the crown prince had a one-on-one meeting at the Prime Minister House, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, jointly co-chaired by the two leaders. The Council was formed “to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation,” the Prime Minister House said in a statement on Sunday night.
“Under the Supreme Coordination Council, a Steering Committee and Joint Working Groups have been set up at Ministerial and Senior Officials levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective Ministers,” the statement said.

Khan and the crown prince will co-chair sessions of the joint working groups on Monday.
“For Pakistanis this is a great day,” Khan said in a speech delivered after the signing of the MoUs. “Saudi Arabia has always been a friend for Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has been a friend when Pakistan has needed friends,” he said, adding that “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are taking their relationship to a level where it has never been before.”
Last year, Saudi Arabia had offered Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis.
Speaking about the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of energy and infrastructure projects that forms a key node in China’s ambitious Belt and Road plan linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond, the Pakistani prime minister said he hoped Saudi Arabia would participate with Islamabad in what he considered an “exciting future.”
“We have CPEC, we have links with China, we have very close connectivity with probably what is the biggest market in the world, which is China,” the Pakistani prime minister said. “So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us. It’s an exciting future.”


Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

Updated 14 September 2020

Thumbs-up: Pakistani woman defies risks to hitchhike across the country

  • Leaving corporate security behind, Maria Soomro has traveled solo around the country since the pandemic began
  • She documents her travels and uses YouTube and Instagram to provide tips on how to solo travel as a woman

RAWALPINDI: A few months ago, while doing a stable job in the banking sector, Maria Soomro decided to act on her gut instinct and leave behind the monotony and routine of her daily life to follow her dream of hitchhiking around Pakistan. 

30-year-old Soomro hails from Karachi and has been working in the banking sector since completing her university education. The corporate job gave her 40 days of annual leave which she utilized for travel, though she felt that something was missing. 

“I wasn’t fully able to immerse myself in enjoyment or the experience,” she told Arab News over the phone while traveling through Gilgit-Baltistan. “When I travel, I go to remote villages, off-the-beaten-path type places and get to know the locals, actually spend some time understanding where I am and who I am surrounded by. Five or 15 days don’t allow for that.” 

The idea of spending time doing what she loved as opposed to sitting at a desk kicked Soomro into high-gear. “I opted to turn the documenting of my travels, which I had been doing since 2015 on Instagram (@MariaSoomro_) and eponymous YouTube channel, into my full-time job.” 

Maria Soomro smiles for the camera in a ride she hitched near Burzil Pass, part of the historic caravan route between Srinagar and Gilgit on her Instagram page on September 11, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

In March of this year, Soomro headed out on her hitchhiking journey. Being a solo female traveler in Pakistan is a steadily growing trend, though a woman who hitchhikes is almost unheard of.

 “Budget traveling is my focus. The largest chunk of your budget ends up being spent on accommodation and transportation, and both of these things can be covered when you’re hitchhiking,” said Soomro. 

But her travel ethos is another reason hitchhiking was so attractive. To her, there is no better way than this to know the places one is traveling through. 

“This is a shortcut to get to know local communities, be it Pakistan or another country. When you ask for a lift, you get a special introduction to their home, their points of view, and you learn from them,” she said, adding that one can build contacts as a bonus who can be assets to solo travelers. 

Soomro estimates that her hitchhiking adventure has allowed her to meet over 300 people, all of whom, she maintains, contact through social media. “The more people you meet the more stories you hear and the more people you can share your own story with,” said she. 

Maria Soomro shares tips and tricks on solo travel including how to keep one's tent from blowing away in a shot she shares from Golden Beach, Balochistan, on her Instagram page on June 14, 2020. (Picture courtesy of Maria Soomro) 

Instead of merely asking for a lift, Soomro has taken each ride as an opportunity to educate on what hitchhiking is, why she is doing it, and why she is traveling Pakistan. 

“It’s not very common here and I want to change that. The general consensus is that Pakistan is not safe, in particular for women, to travel alone.” 

When asked about how safe she has felt while traveling, Soomro said she follows “her gut instinct, assessing each ride” but also stressed the importance of “being prepared,” such as carrying personal protection equipment like pepper spray and knife. 

“My advice to Pakistanis who want to follow into my footsteps would be to take time to understand this kind of travel first and do not go straight for hitching,” she said. “Travel in groups and learn the areas you want to visit, know how roads work and, like any other passion, take time to educate yourself.” 

Soomro is doing her part in educating travel hopefuls on her YouTube channel and Instagram page with tips on how to hitchhike, where to go, and how to pitch a tent to withstand winds and what type of rides to expect around the country at present. 

“There are very few people who follow their passion in the world, and I am one of those crazy people since I thought I could do it,” said Soomro. “I am a free bird and travel is a part of me. I can’t imagine my life without this.”