Shahbaz Sharif off to Saudi Arabia for ‘important’ meetings
December 28, 2017
LAHORE: Punjab Chief
Minister Shahbaz Sharif left for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
According to an official
press release, the chief minister will hold ‘important’ meetings in the
kingdom, besides performing Umra. No word was given about the nature of the
The departure, however,
set many tongues wagging as Mr Sharif travelled in a special plane sent by the
kingdom. Also the visit came at the heels of his nomination as the PML-N
candidate for the prime minister office.
A couple of days ago,
Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Admiral Nawaf Ahmad Al Maliki, along with envoys
of around two dozen countries, had called on the chief minister.
Federal Climate Change
Minister Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn by phone that various issues of
international and national importance would be discussed during the meetings in
Saudi Arabia. He termed the visit good news for the ruling Pakistan Muslim
League-Nawaz, but did not elaborate it.
With speculation rife, PTI wants purpose of visit stated
Punjab Law Minister Rana
Sanaullah, a close aide to the chief minister, seconded Mr Khan’s views and
said: “Mian Shahbaz Sharif will definitely discuss issues of national
importance — not just of Punjab — with his Saudi hosts. Saudi Arabia has been
our trusted brotherly country for decades and we are relying on it in many
economic and other matters of international importance.”
A PML-N leader, who
requested not to be named, said that for many years the United States used to
play its role in Pakistani politics through Saudi Arabia and the chief
minister’s visit should be seen in that perspective.
In response to a
question, he said the Panama Papers case, besides other issues, would
definitely figure in the meetings. He said Shahbaz Sharif presently was not in
a position to offer anything to the Saudis but could promise something in the
The opposition also
senses that to its disadvantage as the visit is being used to build stature of
the chief minister as future prime minister of the country.
Tehreek-i-Insaf’s spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said they’re concerned at the visit
undertaken without any prior notice to any authority or institution. He said
people should be taken into confidence about the purpose and objectives of the
The Sharifs used to
enjoy good relations with the Saudis who had rescued them from military ruler
Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2000 and hosted the family during its seven-year exile
in Jeddah. But the relations got sour after Islamabad refused to lend Riyadh
its forces for the Yemen war.
Some believe that the
issue was instrumental in making some Gulf states cooperate with Pakistani
authorities in the Panama Papers investigations against then prime minister
They also showed their
fury by not allowing Mr Sharif to speak at the Arab-Islamic-American summit
also attended by US President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, PML-N chief
Nawaz Sharif held a consultative meeting in Lahore to finalise schedule for his
public meetings in Punjab.