Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is visiting Saudi Arabia at the personal invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Riyadh ahead of this high-profile visit to lay the groundwork for what is being described by the media as a major boost in Saudi-Pakistan ties, especially in terms of economic, trade and environmental cooperation.
This augurs well for the two brotherly countries, as their historic friendship faced an unfortunate rupture last year.
Luckily the leadership on both sides was resilient enough to see through the challenge and bring Saudi-Pakistan ties back on track.
To be sure, this resilience is rooted in the people-to-people relationship, which eventually helps them overcome temporary glitches and sustain cooperation on issues of mutual concern and interest. This time is no different — and here is why.
Soon after his election as prime minister in August 2018, Khan was able to develop a personal relationship with the crown prince.
He traveled to Saudi Arabia twice in the next two months, the second time at the personal invitation of the crown prince to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference as part of Saudi Vision 2030.
Khan had inherited a serious balance of payments crisis. So Saudi Arabia took the lead in offering a financial relief package of $6.2 billion, including $3 billion in loans and a $3.2 billion deferred oil payment facility.
Taking a cue from Riyadh, the UAE followed suit by offering $6 billion in additional support to Pakistan.
When the Saudi crown prince visited Pakistan in February 2019, he was personally driven by Khan to the prime minister’s house in Islamabad, up on the hill in Islamabad.
In another example that symbolized the personal chemistry between the two charismatic leaders, the crown prince cheerfully told the Pakistani premier: “I am your ambassador in Saudi Arabia.” (Later in the year, the crown prince would offer his personal plane to Khan to fly to New York for the UN summit. And even while Saudi-Pakistan ties briefly experienced a bad spell in 2020, Khan declared: “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will always remain close friends.”)
That historic visit to Pakistan by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019 witnessed a major transition in Saudi-Pakistan strategic relations in the economic sphere, with the announcement of $20 billion of Saudi investments in Pakistan, including a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the strategic port city of Gwadar.
The rest of the investments were in the mining and renewable energy sectors.
This was in parallel with the efforts to sign the Free Trade Agreement to increase the volume of bilateral trade, which was worth $2 billion.
In the past, the two nations cooperated closely in security and geopolitical matters, and Saudi economic help was confined to oil concessions. Now, for the first time, the Kingdom was interested in the long-term economic development of Pakistan.
“This promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by breakthroughs on different fronts.“
–Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri
In particular, the choice of Gwadar for such an investment stake indicated the Saudi inclination to join the wider regional integration network: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In the natural order of things, the next logical step would have been to jointly work out the development plans for the proposed Saudi economic projects in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, international forces inimical to Saudi Arabia’s exceptional position in the Muslim world, and the historic Saudi-Pakistan alliance, could not digest the fact that the two brotherly nations were taking their relationship to a different level, where their interests could be geo-economically intertwined in future.
What happened next is a sad part of our current history, which is not worth recalling.
What is worth stating, however, is that Saudi Arabia is, and will remain, the heart of Islam for the Muslims of the world, and no other country can claim such a right: That the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the sole representative body of 57 Muslim countries and no attempt to create an alternative Muslim bloc will ever succeed; and, of course, the fact that Saudi-Pakistan ties are well-rooted in the love and affection that their people have for each other, and hence no conspiracy can hamper their organic evolution as historic partners.
That is why the false narrative regarding the OIC’s role in Kashmir did not take hold for long. That is why the dismal portrayal of Saudi economic support for Pakistan finally failed the test of times.
Fortunately, both nations have formal and informal channels of communication to overcome any instance of grave misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation impacting their relationship.
Their bond is unbreakable as it is founded on the will of the two peoples.
Hence, the two brotherly nations have always stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in difficult times. From defending the sanctity of the two holy mosques to defeating the scourge of terrorism, Pakistan has always been a key Saudi partner.
Likewise, Saudi Arabia has never disappointed Pakistan when it is faced with hard times, be it the wave of terrorism post-9/11 or the devastating earthquake of 2005.
The two countries also closely cooperate to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. The current or emerging Saudi engagement in Pakistan reflects the same spirit of camaraderie with Islamic roots.
In retrospect, what the visit of Prime Minister Khan to Jeddah shows is that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is back to the level it was at when the crown prince visited Islamabad more than two years ago.
The decision by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to roll over $2 billion loans to next year implies the resumption of their respective financial relief packages, which Pakistan desperately needs to ward off the devastating effects of the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The visit is expected to kick-start work on the $20 billion Saudi development projects in Pakistan, especially the Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar.
To boost bilateral trade, a comprehensive customs cooperation accord is also reportedly on the agenda.
Moreover, General Bajwa’s almost week-long interaction with his Saudi counterparts, and the recent appointment of retired Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will ensure enhanced coordination in defense and the strategic relationship between the two countries.
In fact, this time the relationship is expected to deliver deeper cooperation beyond defense and the economy, on issues of climate change in particular.
Khan shares the vision of the crown prince as set out in the recently announced Saudi Green and Green Middle East initiatives, which align with his government’s Clean and Green Pakistan initiative.
And, luckily, this promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by the Saudi olive branch to Iran, the end of the Qatar crisis, and the India-Pakistan cease-fire in Kashmir.
These developments surely open up the diplomatic space for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to concentrate their joint efforts for economic development and regional stability.
• Dr Ali Awadh Asseri served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan from 2001 to 2009 and received Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Pakistan, for his services in promoting the Saudi-Pakistan relationship. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Beirut Arab University and authored the book ‘Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror’ (Oxford, 2009).
For The First Time In 74 Years, Pakistan is Going To Turn Gems, Jewelry And Minerals Into An Export Industry: PM
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the Gems, Jewellery and Minerals Task Force. The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Industry Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Special Assistant Dr. Shahbaz Gill, Chairman Gems and Jewellery Task Force Engineer Gull Asghar Khan, Atif Khan, members of the task force and relevant senior officers. During the meeting, recommendations were made to the Prime Minister on the restructuring of the Gems, Jewellery and Minerals Division of the Task Force and the proposed Mineral City.
The meeting was informed that Pakistan has a potential of USD 5 billion annually in terms of exports of precious stones which will have a positive impact on the national economy and create millions of jobs. Pakistan currently has reserves of 99 types of precious stones and is the eighth largest producer in the world. Moreover, according to conservative estimates, Pakistan consumes 200 tons of gold annually. With effective legislation and better management of this sector, it will be transformed into a major export industry.
The meeting was informed that Gems and Jewellery have been given industry status and its implementation will be ensured as per the strategy of the task force. In order to increase exports, special attention will be given to export promotion for which assistance will also be sought from Pakistani embassies. In addition, a Gems and Jewellery City will be set up to pool resources, provide one-window operations to address the problems the sector is facing and provide incentives to investors. Initially, a public-private partnership model will be adopted using existing resources.
Pakistan will also actively seek sector-related certifications for access to international markets. It will not only improve the standards of not only precious stones but also precious metals but will bring the current standards at par with internationally recognized standards. The meeting was also informed that despite the availability of research resources in this field, no significant progress has been made. According to the strategy, all modern standards will be introduced by utilizing the research sector. The meeting was also given a detailed briefing on the establishment of Mineral City.
An area has been identified for the chemical and mineral industry in Pakistan where industrial value addition from crude minerals will not only help reduce imports but also increase foreign exchange from exports. The Prime Minister said on the occasion that the government was restructuring the sector with modern technology by changing the traditional practices of the minerals and precious stones sector. The Prime Minister further directed that all the resources that are being wasted should be utilized and a schedule should be worked out for the implementation of this strategy with clear-cut timelines as well as the existing barriers for investors should be eradicated.
Socio-Economic Implications of Canadian Border Closure With U.S
After doing a detailed analysis of the situation emerging from the closure of the border between Canada and US, it could be assessed that how damaging the decision is for the Economy of Canada, and how beneficial, it will be for Canada, if it decides to re-open the Border which is closed over the fears of an outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic.
Since, some people think that given the maximum number of Covid-19 cases and several deaths worldwide, the decision should stay as there are thousands of cases and deaths over covid-19 in the US. They deem it a good step to keep the border shut over the fears of Novel Corona Virus with the US and Mexico.
Though some sections consider the move as a right decision based on the covid0-19 statistics some experts term it very dangerous for Canadian Economy as it will be affected as major industries such Tourism and Travel, Immigration affected very badly and economic cannot be put on hold for long as the numbers show that 75% to 80% Canadian exports go to the US while 30% to 40% US exports make their way in Canada.
Thus the economy has been hit very badly due to this prolonged closure and shutdown of Economic activities will ultimately pose a grave threat to falling in Recession and Falling of Reserves.
The Canadian authorities will have to swallow a hard pill to re-open the b border for essential and non-essential travel since both types of entries in the country contribute to the economy of the country.
At the moment, Canada has limited Covid-19 infections as compared to the US that has a massive number of infections in the world.
According to the Border Management Experts, this could be the only problem that might have prompted Canadian Prime Minister to extend the closure for another month until some SOP’s may be developed to ensure on border covid-19 Testing and Scanning so that preventive measures should be taken to keep the infection ratio low in Canada.
The World economies are affected very badly over the lockdowns announced to prevent Covid-19 outbreak and their economy has been under pressure already and the financial experts predict the worst type recession shortly.
The people of both countries are of the view that the Prolonged border closure has caused an economic crisis and several Industries such as Hotel Industry, Travel Tours and Immigration, Food and beverages Industry, sports Industry, Education have been affected very badly and both Canada and the US cannot afford to sustain more jolts to their economy as economic activities have dropped to almost 80% and ring the alarm bells for the leadership to decide immediately what their next plan will for the border.
Whether they will reopen it in phases or provide restrict access to essential travel such health workers, Airline Crew, Food and Goods services, People visiting ailing relatives and other related activities that fall within the purview of “ essential”.
Although, the global Pandemic has created a situation like recession which is going from bad to worse each Passing day, yet in such scenario “keeping borders Closed” for trade and Business Opportunities and other travel, entertainment industry, will incur an irreparable loss to the Economy of both Canada and US as both countries have signed several Trade Agreements and US has been losing millions of Dollars in terms ” US Entry Waivers” and this is putting pressure on world’s biggest economy.
Even it is a great blow to the Immigrants who wish to travel to neighbouring countries.
Both Canada and the United States are providing millions of dollars to people as relief package, Health and social security and other procurements such Covid-19 testing kits and establishing new isolation and Quarantine centres as the infections surge in the US and worldwide.
In such circumstances halting economic activities are suicidal for Canada and Virus affected the US by keeping borders close for non-essential or optional purposes despite putting some curbs on essential travels such putting immigrants in 14 days quarantine and other immigration-related curbs.
The economists fear that what would be the consequences if the covid-19 vaccine was unavailable till the end of the year 2021, will they still keep the border closed, sounds like insensible and disastrous for all types Industries and Sectors including Immigration and Border services.
So, it would be prudent on the part of Both Canada and US to think over the re-opening of their border so that people intending to visit their relatives on both sides of borders may have uninterrupted access and they must be facilities at the border checkpoints for covid-19 so that the fears of Canadian authorities about getting soaring infections may be dispelled by assuring them safety measures at border crossing points.
Furthermore, the fears cannot be treated with medicines but they could be soothed with confidence-building measures as the statistics show that 65% Canadian fear to get contracted by Virus while over 60% US people have a similar situation for contracting virus.
Despite all this, nobody knows that when these borders will reopen for general people apart from essential travel as most people are in the grip of fear and prefer staying at home as per WHO guidelines, that may be the issue that both Canadian and US Governments are lingering on the issue and prefer extending closure as both nations enjoy cordial relation and the closure is a mutual decision of both countries.
Recently, though some Tour industry groups recorded their protest and demanded to re-open the border. The decision could not be influenced until the general public presses their respective Governments to review the decision and take some bold steps to save their economies falling to prey to this pandemic.
Both Canada and the US cannot afford to lose millions of Dollars in border trade and border revenues such as Entry waivers, customs etc to boost their economies.
PM to Inaugurate the First One-Window EHSAAS Center Tomorrow
Under the Ehsaas umbrella, there are many programs for 14 different target groups. But often, a poor family is not aware of the benefits they are entitled to and, if they are aware, they have to go to multiple offices to seek help. With One Window Ehsaas, the aim is to deliver services through a single window, a one-stop shop.
One Window Ehsaas has six pillars: A One Stop Shop, the Ehsaas Center; a public facing digital information and services platform; mobile app; back office consolidated digital interface; Cognitive API architecture, or the integrated national socioeconomic database; and finally, the Ehsaas One-Window Beneficiary Selection and Targeting Policy.
The first One Window Ehsaas Center is opening in Sitara Market today in Islamabad. In this center, all Ehsaas services can be accessed in one place. To facilitate Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries, whose families receive stipends, both Point of Sales machines as well as cash machines or ATMs have been placed in the One Window Center. Partner banks have opened their branches in the center, and NADRA office has been set up as well.
Having all these services in one center can significantly facilitate an Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiary, who often previously needed to go to many offices to get complaints resolved. Ehsaas stipends for children can be accessed at the center also. The digital system, which has recently been put in place does real time verifications from three data sources before the child is enrolled in the program and if the child doesn’t have a Birth registration form—which is a prerequisite for enrollment—the mother can just walk the courtyard to get it made in the NADRA center rather than taking taxi to go to another site. Ehsaas Nashonuma services are also available in the center.
Children at risk of stunting and pregnant mothers can get specialized nutritional food from the office and cash stipends from the ATM. They get awareness session as well on health and nutrition. Antenatal services and immunization services are available at the center. Students can walk into the center and get information about Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship, and they don’t have to pay in an internet café to fill their application.
In the One Window center, there is free use of internet, computer and printer. In the One Window center, someone, looking for a livelihood opportunity can visit Ehsaas Amdan and Ehsaas Interest Free Loan Desks. A person in need of financial assistance for health can find out about Sehat Sahulat and, if not entitled in Sehat Sahulat or not in an empaneled hospital can be channeled to Ehsaas Tahafuz or PBM’s health related financial assistance systems. In One Window service, there also are many care services. Somebody wanting to spend a night in Panagah can book a bed and get free One Star bed and breakfast facility.
People can admit a child in an orphanage; and a young woman can get information and be admitted in a vocational center. A street child can be admitted in one of our free schools. Ehsaas Registration Desks have been set up where people can get surveyed, to ascertain if they are eligible for Ehsaas benefits. In the center, Dashboards, display information relevant to people’s needs and complaints are addressed in real time.
There is also a beneficiary retiring room, in case a woman comes with a child and needs to feed her. A differently abled individual can have multiple avenues of redress in the center. Processes are being made simpler so that they can get a disability card made with ease. In the same disability room, NGOs are given space to provide free prosthesis and orthoses. Also, a customized wheelchair can be ordered.
The second part is the digital e-portal with people centered information; this was built learning from the questions on social media about various Ehsaas programs. The third part of One Window Ehsaas is an app which mirrors information on the digital portal but in addition, it also marks locations of our service sites: Langars, Panagahs and payment sites. When opened from a mobile, an individual can be navigated to the address.
This app is enabled with a camera, which allows a photograph to pick the geolocation of an Ehsaas social welfare site to be mapped. The fourth part is the integrated digital interface facing the back office, which facilitates access of all those working in the Ehsaas ecosystem to appropriate links and resources. The fifth component of One Window Ehsaas is the integrated database. Previously the 2010 BISP data was siloed; even provincial social protection agencies had to do paperwork to access the database and there were costs involved.
Now, under the Ehsaas data reform, all federal Ehsaas implementing agencies will be able to access data from the 2021 Ehsaas National Socio-economic Registry through APIs with no cost at all. This two-way data sharing will also enrich the data repository. Data integration will also enable transparency. Agencies will be able to see what benefits an individual or the family are getting, and the entitlements they have in terms of various Ehsaas programs.
The sixth pillar of One Window Ehsaas, is the Standardized Beneficiary Targeting Policy. Previously, all agencies used their own eligibility ascertainment system—this Policy will compel standardized beneficiary targeting using the Proxy Means Test, which uses information on household and individual characteristics to compute an algorithm generated score (0-100) for each household, which then serves as a proxy for welfare status.
The information needed to generate the score comes from the National Socioeconomic Survey. So, in the One Window Policy specific PMTs were stipulated for each program and a policy devised to do away with duplications. “We will open Ehsaas One Window Centers in every district”, said Dr. Sania.
Digital9 months ago
Pakistan Moves Closer to Train One Million Youth with Digital Skills
Development2 years ago
INGOS And The Future Of Unemployed Youth in Pakistan
China1 year ago
What will the post-COVID world look like?
News8 months ago
Dr . Arif Alvi visits the National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi
China6 months ago
TIKTOK’s global growth and expansion : a bubble or reality ?
Digital6 months ago
Social Media and polarization of society
Kashmir9 months ago
Pakistan Mission Islamabad Celebrates “KASHMIRI SOLIDARITY DAY “
Featured6 months ago
The Right-Wing Politics in United States & The Capitol Hill Mayhem