Looking East, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Arrives in Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for the start of a tour of several Asian nations as the Kingdom looks eastward to strengthen trade relationships and business opportunities.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with head of Pakistan's Army.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with head of Pakistan’s Army.

As is usually the case for the highest Saudi royal leaders on state visits, the Crown Prince traveled with a sizable entourage and was received in Pakistan with military and state fanfare. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was conferred with Pakistan’s highest civilian honor, the Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan) at a formal ceremony.

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future and we want to be sure that we are part of that,” Mohammed bin Salman said on Sunday during a joint press conference with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Upon his arrival, the Crown Prince said he would free over 2,000 Pakistani prisoners currently being held in Saudi Arabia, drawing praise from the Prime Minister and his foreign minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi.

“HRH Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has graciously agreed to free 2107 Pakistani prisoners in Saudi Arabia with immediate effect. Cases of the remaining will be reviewed. People of Pakistan thank HRH for responding immediately to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request,” Quereshi tweeted.

Prime Minister Khan thanked the Crown Prince for the gesture and said that the royal leader “won the hearts of Pakistan” after a request to treat the 2.5 million Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia as his own.

Crown Prince Mohammed is set to sign a slew of deals and MOUs in Pakistan, including a $10 billion agreement on establishing an oil refinery in the southwestern coastal city of Gwadar, and a $4 billion agreement on developing alternative energy sources. He will also meet with high-level Pakistani defense officials and hold talks with Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Crown Prince’s trip, delayed by one day, will also see a postponement of his visits to Malaysia and Indonesia. After visiting Pakistan, Crown Prince Mohammed will visit India and China.