Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan is received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Friday. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud)
Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan is received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Friday. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud)
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Updated 08 May 2021

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
  • Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda of meetings
  • Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.

With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.

“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.




Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019.  (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”

Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.

At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.

Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.

Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing. 

Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.




Pakistan's PM Imran Khan walk along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Nur Khan Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”

Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.

In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.

“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”

 

The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.

“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.

 


Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
A man displays his details on his mobile phone using the Tawakkalna app as he enters a mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide

Saudi Arabia’s Tawakkalna app operating in 75 countries worldwide
  • An app launched last year by Saudi authorities to help track coronavirus infections is available in 75 countries worldwide
  • The Tawakkalna app was recently updated to show someone’s COVID-19 health status, showing them to be vaccinated or infected, and now functions as a “passport”

JEDDAH: Countries in the first phase of the app’s international availability include: Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Morocco, Tunisia, Djibouti, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bangladesh, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Norway, Austria, the US, Japan, Greece, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Brunei, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Singapore, Switzerland, France, Finland, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Croatia, Canada, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Malta, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Maldives, and Azerbaijan.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs office in Jazan temporarily closed the Budaiya Mosque in Abu Arish governorate after it was confirmed that the imam had COVID-19.

Field teams undertook preventive and precautionary measures, including sterilization operations and comprehensive maintenance, in preparation for reopening the mosque and receiving worshippers at a later date.

The ministry noted the keenness of worshippers and their active role in reporting mosques that did not comply with health and safety instructions and failed to implement preventive measures.

FASTFACTS

464,780 Total cases

446,960 Recoveries

It asked everyone to report future similar incidents by calling 1933.

Saudi Arabia on Saturday reported 16 more coronavirus-related fatalities, taking the overall death toll to 7,553.

There were 1,077 new cases, bringing the total number of infections 464,780. There are 10,267 active cases, of which 1,562 are in a critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 348 were in Makkah, 225 were in Riyadh, 149 were in the Eastern Province, and 69 were in Madinah.

Authorities said a further 906 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries to 446,960.

The country has so far carried out more than 20.27 million PCR tests, with 75,059 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the onset of the pandemic.

Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual.

Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Saudi Arabia has vaccinated 15,633,787 people to date.


Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system
Updated 12 June 2021

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

Makkah governor inaugurates prototype of new public transport system

 

JEDDAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal on Saturday inaugurated the prototype of a public transport bus in Makkah.

This will serve citizens as well as pilgrims and visitors of the holy city by introducing an integrated service system in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

On the sidelines of the Digital Region Projects Exhibition, Prince Khaled was briefed on the operational mechanism of the new transport system, which aims to accommodate needs resulting from the expected growth in the population in Makkah and in the number of visitors to the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

The new transport system aims to support economic development in Makkah and provide easy access to the Grand Mosque and other mosques in the city as well as educational and health facilities, commercial and recreational areas, and contribute to reducing pollution and protecting the environment by reducing dependence on small cars.

The bus network consists of two stages. The first phase will consist of 12 lines and about 83 stops in which medium-sized buses are used, while the other five lines will be express lines with dedicated tracks, a length of 172 km and about 342 stops, in which buses of greater capacity and frequency are used.

The project also includes operating more than 400 buses, including 240 regular buses that can accommodate up to 85 seats, and 160 buses with a capacity of 125 seats. This is in addition to the construction of a bus accommodation station, which includes a control building, drivers’ management building, gas station, light maintenance workshop, bus washing and maintenance station, heavy maintenance workshop, bus stops and drivers’ housing facilities.

The buses are equipped with environment protection systems that reduce Euro-4 carbon emissions, include protection systems through surveillance cameras inside and outside the bus, a collision-avoidance system, electronic screens showing the destination to be reached, as well as a hydraulic system to help people with special needs, and places for strollers and people with special needs.

The vehicles will also have Internet service (Wi-Fi) and an audio-visual system displaying trip information to passengers. Buses will operate for an average of 22 hours a day.

 


Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed

Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed
The event, scheduled to be held in July, will be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, the statement added. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed

Saudi decision to allow 60,000 vaccinated residents on Hajj and bar foreigners welcomed
  • The Muslim World League, in a statement issued on behalf of all scholars under its umbrella, supported the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to confront new mutated variants of the virus

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s decision to only allow 60,000 residents vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to perform this year’s Hajj, and to bar Muslims from abroad for a second straight year, has been widely welcomed.

The Hajj — a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lives — packs millions of pilgrims into religious sites and could be a major source of contagion amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the pilgrimage will be “open for nationals and residents of the Kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims,” the Kingdom's Hajj Ministry said, quoted by the Saudi Press Agency.

The event, scheduled to be held in July, will be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, it added. Those wishing to perform the pilgrimage will have to apply online.

Only around 10,000 Muslims took part in the Hajj in July last year.

Khalifa Shaheen Al-Marar, UAE minister of state, said his country “welcomes the Kingdom’s decision and supports all measures the Kingdom takes as part of its efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, contain its spread and ensure the safety and security of pilgrims and the community.”

Al-Marar added: “The scientific achievements of Saudi Arabia testify to the importance the Kingdom attaches to science as the key driver in supporting healthcare and overcoming the major challenges from the impact of the pandemic.”

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa, Bahraini minister of justice, Islamic affairs and endowment, said the decision “falls in line with preserving Hajj rituals and meeting Shariah exigency.”

The Muslim World League (MWL), in a statement issued on behalf of all scholars under its umbrella, supported the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to confront new mutated variants of the virus.

Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, MWL secretary-general and chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said the rules of Islamic law emphasize the inevitability of taking all safety precautions in such a pandemic.

He added that several senior scholars of the Islamic world contacted the MWL expressing support for the Kingdom’s decision.

The statement stressed the “exceptional efforts” made by the Saudi government, “which clearly demonstrates its concern for the safety of visitors and pilgrims of the Grand Mosque and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque.”

Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Saudi decision emanates from the Kingdom’s success in organizing last year’s Hajj season, held following all the precautionary measures, which effectively contributed to preventing the virus’s spread.

He said the Kingdom assumed responsibility toward organizing the Hajj, which required it to take strict decisions and measures based on current health data and well-established Islamic jurisprudence rules.

Egyptian Grand Mufti Shauqi Allam also hailed the decision.

Related


Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
Saudi cities have become centers of olive oil production. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree

Saudi Arabia’s Jouf Olive Festival celebrates prosperity of ‘blessed’ tree
  • Over 140,000 tons of fruit produced in KSA annually, and 120,000 tons of oil
  • Farmers from nine countries invited to share industry experiences with local producers

MAKKAH: The Jouf Olive Festival celebrates the crop, and this year, in its 14th year, hosted 45 farmers representing the region all competing for the Prince Faisal bin Nawaf Award, worth SR500,000 ($133,000) and given by the prince, who is also the regional governor.

The festival also hosted, for the first time, farmers from the US, Spain, Argentina, Italy, China, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, to share their experiences of the industry.

Omar Al-Hamwan, director general of public relations and media and the official spokesperson for Jouf Municipality, said Saudi Arabia’s olive production amounts to 120 tons annually, and there is a specialized committee to monitor the volume of sales at the end of the festival and to crown the winners of the award.

He added that no oil could be entered into the festival unless it was certified and tested by the laboratory of Jouf Municipality, to ensure its quality, acidity and suitability for human consumption.

Other Saudi cities have also become centers of olive oil production, he said, such as Tabuk and Al-Baha, but Jouf still produces the largest volume.

HIGHLIGHT

Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region.

He added that Basita, an agricultural area in Jouf, has the largest olive farm in the world, owned by Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., which produces 10,000 tons of the finest oil annually, citing the abundance of water in the area as one of the reasons behind the success.

The CEO of Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., Mazen Badawood, said that this year’s festival was one of the best in terms of organization, direction and participation.

“Each year, we see a new image of the festival, and this time we witnessed an improvement as many wonderful activities were added, so as to place olive cultivation in a good light and highlight its importance in Saudi Arabia and worldwide,” said Badawood.

He added that the olive tree was a blessed tree, mentioned in the Qur’an and in the Prophet’s teachings, that provided great economic returns, whether from its fruit, leaves, or even its wood.

He pointed out that the olive tree consumes less water compared to other crops, noting that Al-Jouf Co. uses modern drip irrigation techniques for sustainability.

Olive cultivation is carried out by planting both trees for both traditional and intensive farming. Al-Jouf Co. is considered one of the pioneers in cultivating and developing olive trees in the region, especially for intensive production.

Badawood said his company is proud to be the owner of the largest modern organic olive farm in the world, with more than 5 million trees and a planting area of over 7,300 hectares.

“Saudi Arabia now has over 20 million olive trees, more than 80 percent of which are in the Jouf region, which is famous for olive cultivation thanks to its suitable environment,” he explained.

Badawood noted that the Kingdom produces over 140,000 tons of olive fruits annually, with 120,000 tons of oil being made as a result.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia consumes about 45,000 tons of olive oil per year, 15,000 to 18,000 tons of which are locally produced while the rest is imported.

However, he noted, with the expansion of olive cultivation, there is an opportunity for self-sufficiency in the near future, which goes in line with the Kingdom’s vision of increasing sustainability and decreasing imports.

 


Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics
Updated 12 June 2021

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Who’s Who: Abdulraheem Kano, director at Saudi Post and Logistics

Abdulraheem Kano has been the internal workforce mobility and outsourced services director at Saudi Post and Logistics since April 2020.

Between February 2019 and April 2020, Kano served as talent acquisition manager at Noon, one of the leading e-commerce companies in the Middle East.

From September 2016 to October 2018, Kano held the position of strategic projects manager at SAED, a Saudi company providing and managing personnel solutions in the workforce, from basic positions to the executive level.

Kano joined SAED in July 2014 and worked as talent acquisition manager until September 2016.

From January 2013 to July 2014, he held the position of senior recruitment officer at Tamer Group, a leading health, beauty care and prestige product company. Its core activities include importation, distribution, promotion, marketing and manufacturing.

From January 2012 to January 2013, Kano worked as an insurance officer, controlling all general insurance-related activities including motors, marine and properties.

Kano holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah. He received a diploma in IT from the University of South Australia.

He also completed an HRBP certification course from the Society for Human Resource Management.