Saudi Arabia's crown prince lands in Pakistan

Saudi Arabia's crown prince lands in Pakistan
The cash-strapped Pakistan government has given Saudi Arabia's crown prince a lavish welcome to the country.
3 min read
17 February, 2019
Saudi Arabia's crown prince has been given a huge welcome to Pakistan [Getty]

Pakistan welcomed Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a 21-gun salute in Pakistan on Sunday, as the royal makes a two-day state visit to Islamabad.

It comes as the royal attempts to strengthen his alliance with Riyadh's eastern allies following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other PR disasters.

Prince Mohammed will tie up investment deals worth billions of dollars, which Pakistan hopes will keep its country afloat financially until it receives an IMF bail-out. 

But the visit has been criticised for its extravagant nature, just as Islamabad begins to suffer from acute money shortages.

Prince Mohammed was met by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan - and powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa - at a red carpet reception on Sunday, after his plane was flanked by Pakistani fighter jets to the Islamabad military airport. 

Khan and bin Salman embraced as they met before the Pakistani premier drove the crown prince to his residence in Islamabad, according to Dawn newspaper. 

The Pakistan capital has been decked with the colour of the Saudi flag and images of the crown prince and his father, King Salman, for the start of the most high-profile state visit to Pakistan since 2015.

The two-day visit to Pakistan comes as the crown prince attempts to re-shape his image, following huge criticism in western media over the murder of Khashoggi - allegedly on his orders - and the bloody war in Yemen.

Prince Mohammed will also visit India and China on his tour this week, as he seeks to strengthen Saudi Arabia's relationship with Asian countries following public rebuke from some lawmakers in the west.

Visiting western countries at present would have been "inconvenient", some analysts have said.

Pakistan is in dire economic crisis and looking to Saudi Arabia as a financial lifeline with a $10 billion investment in a refinery and oil complex in the port of Gwadar.

Prime Minister Khan has already visited Saudi Arabia twice since coming to power last summer, as well as Riyadh's ally Abu Dhabi. He has also paid a trip to Riyadh's Gulf rival - Qatar.

The visit also comes amid tensions between Pakistan and its neighbours. New Delhi has said it will "completely isolate" Islamabad after a deadly suicide attack on troops in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Tehran has also blamed Pakistan for another militant attack on Iranian troops and warned of consequences. Iran's Revolutionary Guards also blamed Saudi Arabia and the UAE for the attack, by the Sunni militant group.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit was delayed by one day for "unexplained reasons".

Agencies contributed to this story.