Pakistan to honour Saudi crown prince after $20bn deals

Saudi prince starts Asia tour with deals to invest $20 billion in Pakistan

Saudi crown prince agrees to invest $20B in Pakistan

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered the release of more than 2,100 Pakistani prisoners held in the kingdom's jails during a visit to Islamabad, according to Pakistan's information minister.

Pakistan is in the grip of a major debt crisis and is seeking a $12 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund but has yet to sign the deal which comes with tough conditions.

Following the pledge, the crown prince - widely known as MBS - held a series of meetings Monday afternoon with the Pakistani leadership before flying on to India. He got a warm welcome in Pakistan.

Pakistani man waits for transportation AFP
Pakistani man waits for transportation in Islamabad during visit of Saudi crown prince

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) drives a vehicle as he receives Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on his arrival at Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Nur Khan Base in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on February 17, 2019.

Khan has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since coming to power last summer.

The two-day visit to Pakistan kicked off the Crown Prince's Asian tour that will include further visits to India and China.

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"Having the chance to help shape the football industry in the Kingdom is a great honour and it is something where we believe we can make a big difference".

The Saudis, after initially denying any knowledge of Khashoggi's disappearance, finally acknowledged that a team killed him inside the consulate, but described it as a rogue operation that did not involve the crown prince.

Analysts have said the tour is part of a Gulf pivot to rising Asia as a growing oil market, but also a timely demonstration to the West that MBS is not an worldwide pariah.

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He "wants to demonstrate that he is not an global pariah", said James M. Dorsey, a researcher at the S. Rajaratnam School of worldwide Studies in Singapore. It recalled the 2016 India-Saudi Arabia joint statement in which the two countries called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries and to cut off support to terrorists perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states.

Weeks after Khashoggi's killing, Pakistani President Imran Khan told Middle East Eye that he had been shocked by the murder, but that his government would continue to prioritise relations with Saudi Arabia because Pakistan needed access to Saudi loans. "Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the future and we want to be sure we are part of that". Pakistani police commandos and paramilitary soldiers stand guard at a highway to ensure security ahead of Saudi Arabia's crown prince visit to Pakistan, in Islamabad on Sunday.

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