Pakistan Army chief’s official visit believed to be laying groundwork for Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is set to reach Gulf state later this week
Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday reached Saudi Arabia as part of an official visit that comes a few days ahead of a scheduled visit by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“[The] COAS [Chief of the Army Staff] has reached KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] on an official visit,” read a brief statement issued by the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations. It said the Army chief would meet the Saudi civilian and military leadership during his visit. Observers believe the visit would lay the groundwork for Khan’s visit, which is aimed at reviving the Gulf kingdom’s financial assistance to Pakistan.
The prime minister is set to visit Saudi Arabia later this week, with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announcing on Tuesday that it was likely to take place around Ramzan 25 (Friday or Saturday). He said the federal cabinet had approved the establishment of the Pak-Saudi Supreme Coordination Council, adding that a memorandum of understanding to this effect would be signed when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Pakistan. This council, he said, would help promote bilateral relations and remove hurdles to ties.
Gen. Bajwa last visited Saudi Arabia in August 2020 after ties between Riyadh and Islamabad became strained over Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi criticizing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for failing to convene a special meeting of its member states on the Kashmir issue. Qureshi’s statement had little effect, as more than six months later, Saudi Arabia has yet to fulfill Pakistan’s demand to convene the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers on the issue.
Rumors of worsening ties found support after Saudi Arabia demanded Pakistan return the full amount of a $3 billion soft loan; at the same time it refused to renew an oil credit facility that had been announced shortly after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came into power in 2018.