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Cashless Pakistan rolls out a red carpet for Saudis



  Policemen in front of big posters by Imran Khan and MBS

Caption

Pakistan needs Saudi money to fend off a massive IMF bailout – but this is not a one-sided relationship

Pakistan is hosting a show for the most powerful man in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for a country that has run out of currency reserves, a gaping current account deficit, and struggles for its financial future.

And it's easy to understand why: Prime Minister Imran Khan needs money, and he needs it fast.

MBS, as he is known, comes to the city and promises billions ̵

1; with Pakistan being the first stop on an Asian Asian trip, which also includes a trip to Malaysia, Indonesia and India.

But money is just one dimension of a relationship that goes much deeper.

How wasteful is the visit?

The last visit by a Saudi king was marked by such a fanfare in 2006, when the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz traveled the atomically armed nation.

And security is taken seriously – with Imran Khan he emphasized that he personally takes care of the arrangements. The visit took place against a background of heightened tensions in the region after India blamed Pakistan for decades for the deadliest attack on its security forces in Kashmir.

JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft will accompany the MBS fleet on Sundays when entering Pakistan's airspace with all other flights.

Hundreds of five-star rooms in Islamabad are presumably booked up for the 1,000-strong delegation. There are even reports that thousands of pigeons were caught for a welcome ceremony.

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The Pakistani government organized an auction last year to raise money by selling its luxury fleet of cars has arranged 300 Toyota Land Cruisers.

And for the two-day trip, the Saudi Crown Prince will remain in the official residence of the Prime Minister – something no state guest has ever done.

Why is that? Pakistan desperate for cash?

The central bank has only $ 8 billion left in the currency reserves and is facing a balance of payments crisis.

Since he was sworn in last August, former star cricketer Imran Khan has been aggressively seeking help from friendly countries to secure the scale of the rescue package that Pakistan is likely to need from the International Monetary Fund under very stringent conditions to reduce.

The country has been searching for its 13th rescue operation since the late 1980s.

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The visit of MBS takes place shortly after Abu Dhabi's crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in the city.

The United Arab Emirates has committed to provide $ 6 billion to help Pakistan's troubled economy. Overall, Pakistan hopes to raise $ 30 billion in loans and investments from the two Arab empires, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It's unclear what deals will be signed while MBS is in town – but the crown jewel is a new $ 8 billion oil refinery in the southern port city of Gwadar.

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Gwadar is the nerve center of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor worth $ 60 billion. Chinese money is highly valued by the government of Pakistan, but analysts say it is a string – Chinese workers usually build Chinese projects. There are also concerns that Beijing has too much influence.

Therefore, funds from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are very welcome.

What do the Saudis have?

Although it is easy to see Pakistan as a country History is not so easy.

Saudi Arabia also needs Pakistan.

The Crown Prince's journey comes at a special moment for the Kingdom, which is currently facing its own global reputation crisis due to the humanitarian catastrophe of its war in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khasoggi at his Istanbul Consulate. 19659032] Who is the Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed?

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  • Against this backdrop, MBS's current tour can be considered a charming offensive that seeks to strengthen relationships with trusted allies while supporting each other.

    And it is important not to forget that Pakistan is very important to the Saudis.

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    Caption

    MBS visited Pakistan in 2016 before being promoted to crown prince

    The two countries have a military relationship that goes back decades. When Islam's holiest place in Mecca was attacked by fighters four decades ago, Pakistani troops were deployed to eliminate them.

    "It was always assumed that Pakistan would be able to provide manpower should Saudi Arabia face a major security crisis or a major attack," said Shashank Joshi, South Asia expert and magazine's defense editor The Economist.

    ] "Saudi Arabia, like some other Gulf states, has a lot of money, but not necessarily a particularly strong army, and Pakistan does not have much money, but a very strong and powerful army."

    He adds that it has long been suspected – but never proven – that the two sides have a long-standing nuclear relationship that Saudi Arabia could rely on if one day it needed access to this technology – for example when the regional rival Iran became a nuclear-weapon-ridden power.

    The Saudis They had a strong religious influence in predominantly Sunni Muslim Pakistan, and after the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s, they managed to build a large network of religious seminaries, partly to counter Iran's influence.

    Indeed, a week before the MBS vi In Pakistan, the main streets of Islamabad were covered with placards and banners reminiscent of the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution. Since then they have been replaced by images from MBS.

    Iran's presence as Pakistan's neighbor is another reason why the Saudis want to maintain the relationship.

    "Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan to move closer to Riyadh than to Tehran," says Joshi.

    Caption

    The signs of Iranian leaders were broken off – and replaced by them

    It is true that Pakistan's decision to join Saudia Arabia's call to join its war in Yemen four years ago has damaged the relationship. But this visit – in the midst of a generational change in the Saudi leadership – "represents a change of sides," says the Pakistani newspaper columnist Mosharraf Zaidi.

    The Taliban Question

    What makes the tour even more important is that it comes at a time when geopolitics is changing in the region.

    Unparalleled talks are taking place to end the war in Afghanistan involving Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India and the US.

    The next meetings between the Taliban and US officials could take place on the day the MBS leaves Islamabad – and the Saudis do not want to be silent spectators.

    The high-level talks were previously held in Qatar – the Gulf country with which Saudi Arabia has a continuing rift – and Saudi Arabia The officials will want to know exactly what has happened in Pakistan, says Joshi.

    "Saudi Arabia will be careful that in the peace process the factions [of the Taliban that they are close to] have the powers and not the closest ones to Iran."

    On his journey, the MBS is also with the powerful army chief of Pakistan General Qamar Javed Bajwa, where the Taliban question is likely to be discussed.

    Additional coverage by the BBC, Kevin Ponniah [19659059]
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