ISLAMABAD- Speakers at a seminar on Friday called for further boosting the strategic partnership between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, stating that enhanced cooperation between the two leading Islamic nations would help both the friendly nations to face emerging challenges and better serving shared interests.
The moot was held here under the aegis of Pak-Saudia Cooperation Forum (PSCF) with the former information minister Mohammed Ali Durrani, who is chairman of the PSCF, in the chair.
Addressing the gathering, former chairman of the chiefs of staff committee General (retd) Ihsanul Haq said that the bilateral relations between both the countries was decades-old and these relations needed to be developed into enhanced strategic partnership.
He said that the ties between both the nations were above any political, sectarian and ethnic divide and these ties had successfully seen challenges and were time-tested.
“Saudi Arabia was one of those first countries which recognised Pakistan after independence. Whether it was wars of 1965, 1971 or sanctions after nuclear tests, Saudi Arabia came forward and helped Pakistan. Pakistan also extended hand to their Saudi brethren and 15000 personnel of our armed forces, clad in Saudi uniform, served in a war-like situation faced by Saudi Arabia in 1980s which is unprecedented in world history,” he added.
He said Saudi ruler King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in a recent meeting had told him that better relations with Pakistan were his personal agenda and no stone would be left unturned to further cement this brotherly relationship.
“Saudi officials also told me that Pakistan was the strategic depth for Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia would also act as strategic depth for Pakistan,” he said and added that joint efforts were needed to further boost this relationship.
General Ihsan said that 15 lakh Pakistanis were working in Saudi Arabia but if trained professionally, more than 50 lakh skilled Pakistanis could be accommodated in Saudia.
PPP Senator Dr Saeeda Iqbal said that Saudi Arabia was the center for the Islamic world. She said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should launch joint efforts to revive the OIC as a robust body. She said relations with Saudi Arabia were priority of all governments as Muslims had great regard for the holy sites in Saudia.
She said that Pakistan could use its influence to improve strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. She said that the forum should work to improve people-to-people contacts between both the friendly countries.
Chairman PSCF Mohammed Ali Durrani called for boosting the strategic relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and said that this partnership could help remove injustices and bring peace and stability in the region resolving decades-old issues like Kashmir and Palestine.
The former senator said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia should be given a leading role in campaign against terrorism and extremism due to the understanding of the real issues and their influence in the region.
Referring to the changing scenario in the Arab world, Mohammed Ali Durrani said that due to the fast developments taking place in the region, there was an urgent need to bring in reforms and remove injustice in the society.
“Where there is peace and stability in Arab countries, joint efforts are needed to remove conspiracies against their governments. Saudi Arabian people are prosperous due to visionary approach adopted by Khadimul Harmain Sharifain King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud,” he added.
PML-Likeminded leader Senator Salim Saifullah Khan said that Almighty Allah had blessed the Muslim Ummah with rich natural and mineral resources but the western countries were fanning ethnic, sectarian and geographic differences to disintegrate the Ummah. He said he was pained on the support by Arab League against a UN resolution against Syria.
He said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had played a key role in defeating USSR in Afghan war and they can also use their clout to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Calling for the need to boost Arabic language learning in the country, Saifullah said that it would have been better if the proposal by Prince Agha Khan had been accepted and Arabic had been given national language status after independence in Pakistan.
“This would have made us better and practicing Muslims,” he said and added that foreign ministry should work diligently to improve relations with Saudi Arabia.
Analyst, anchor and columnist Salim Safi said that Afghan President wanted the dialogue for peace with Taliban to take place in Saudi Arabia but the Americans were against the idea and they were insisting to hold talks in Qatar.
“The US administration feels that if talks are held in Saudi Arabia, it would mean that talks are being held in Pakistan due to close ties between both friendly states. But since the US is against giving lead role to Pakistan, they are holding talks in Qatar and not in Saudi Arabia,” he asserted.
He said US had chosen India as its strategic partner in South Asia and its ties with Pakistan had been a love-hate relationship, same was the case with the US-Saudi relations. He said Saudia and Pakistan needed to evolve a joint strategy to counter joint challenges as both countries had identical challenges and shared interests.
“Like Pakistan, terrorism is a major challenge for Saudi Arabia. Though both the states had promoted extremism in the South East Asia region in mid 70s and 80s, there is no mechanism evolved to counter this menace. Close working would help control this menace now,” he asserted.
He said that it would help deal with local extremist in Pakistan if Saudia could hold a meeting of leading Ulema and get a joint decree on terrorism. He said Pakistan could also help Saudia if local Ulema could engage al-Qaeda leadership in a patch-up with Saudi authorities.
Former ambassador to Riadh, Umar Ali Sherzai said that despite exceptional historic relations, both the countries could not improve their relationship into a strategic partnership which was need of hour.
“There is an urgent need to translate these friendly relations into strong economic cooperation. Despite exceptional ties, our exports to Saudia were mere $ four billion in 2010 while Indian exports were $ 32 billion. We need to improve our exports to its original potential,” he added.
He said Pakistani Diaspora sends remittances from Saudi Arabia more than from any other country which speaks volumes about trade potential.
Eminent journalist Javed Siddique gave an overview of the relations between the two countries and said that Americans wanted Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to play their role in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
He said that Saudi Arabia always came to rescue Pakistan in all sorts of challenging situations and whether it was natural calamities or war-like situations, Saudi Arabia was always first nation to send assistance.