Saudi Crown Prince announces $20 billion to Pakistan and health centre project

The announcement comes during Prince Mohammed's two-day tour of Pakistan

In this photo released by the Press Information Department, visiting Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, listens to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019.  Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his four-day regional visit on Sunday, arriving in Pakistan where he is expected to sign agreements worth billions of dollars to help the Islamic nation overcome its financial crisis. (Press Information Department, via AP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Monday the kingdom's plan to fund a health centre in Pakistan named after a Pakistani man who drowned while rescuing 14 people during the 2009 Jeddah flooding.

Furman Khan was living in Jeddah when torrential rains killed more than 120. He helped saved 14 before drowning in an attempt to rescue more people caught in a flooded underpass. He was 32.

The announcement came shortly after the crown prince on Monday announced Saudi Arabia would invest $20 billion (Dh73.6 billion) in Pakistan with the possibility of more in the future.

The crown prince said this was the first phase of a series of investments that are set to increase.

“We believe that the amount of investment of $20 billion is large for the first phase and will certainly grow each month and every year," said Prince Mohamed.

After delaying his trip by a day, the Saudi prince arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for a two-day tour of the country at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The heir to the Saudi throne was welcomed in extravagant fashion — three JF-17 and three F-16 fighter jets escorted the crown prince’s plane as it entered Pakistani airspace.

He was then welcomed by Mr Khan, who personally drove him in his Mercedes to their first round of bilateral talks.

Saudi Arabia views Pakistan as a key military partner, one which the Kingdom has historically been reliant on for training and troops.

In 1979 when religious radicals seized Makkah, the Saudi monarchy called on the Pakistani military to help battle the rebels and reclaim the mosque. Since then the two countries have maintained strategic military ties.

The trip also highlights the financial alliance between the two.

“Pakistan's GDP growth during last year 2018 was by 5 per cent. So, we believe that Pakistan will be a very prosperous country in the future and we want to make sure that we are part of that boom,” said Crown Prince Mohammed.

In December last year, Pakistan received a $3 billion boost from Saudi Arabia to ease its financial woes.

India and Pakistan are the GCC's second largest trading partners — which is home to more than 4 million Pakistani migrants, 2.6 million of which live in Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani prime minister said the crown prince's visit will consolidate bilateral relations between Riyadh and Islamabad, noting that the visit will move relations into a strong economic partnership.
"The investments accompanied His Royal Highness the Crown Prince's visit will be the biggest investments in the history of Pakistan," he said, pointing to the seven memorandums of understanding signed over the two-day trip.

The agreements include the establishment of an oil refinery at Gwadar Port funded by Saudi Arabia.

The two countries have also pushed to deepen their military alliance. Saudi troops regularly train in Pakistan and, in 2018, Pakistan sent troops to Saudi Arabia to train and advise. Today, there are already about 750-800 Pakistani non-combat servicemen in Saudi Arabia, in part to guard Islamic holy sites.

"We believe in our region and therefore we invest in it and we are sure that we will have one day a great Middle East,” said the prince.

Mr Khan also said the two countries will increase diplomatic co-operation to support the regional and global security and to solve the long-standing conflicts, including Palestinian Cause and Kashmir issue as well as a peace process in Afghanistan.