Saudi Arabia signs huge investment deal with Pakistan

Imran Khan with Mohammad bin Salman

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has signed $20bn in investment deals with Pakistan.

On the second day of his trip to Pakistan on Monday, Prince Mohammed was also awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan) at a formal ceremony.

The Saudi investment deals come at a time when Pakistan is struggling with a faltering economy, a looming balance of payments crisis and waning domestic growth.

On Sunday, MBS was given a red carpet welcome in Islamabad, with Prime Minister Imran Khan receiving him at an airbase and personally driving him into the city.

The two leaders presided over the signing of seven investment agreements worth $20bn in the sectors of oil, petrochemicals, power generation, alternative energy and sports, according to a Pakistani foreign office statement.

Following the talks, Khan requested MBS to personally intervene to aid 2.5 million Pakistanis residing in the Gulf kingdom with any “hardships” they may have. Khan also asked for more than 3,000 Pakistani prisoners currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia to be released.

On Monday, Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the Crown Prince had ordered the “immediate release” of 2,107 Pakistani prisoners from Saudi jails.

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However, the primary focus during MBS’s visit has been on the investment deals that could see the construction of an oil refinery in the southern Pakistani port of Gwadar, the acquisition of two government-owned power plants by Saudi corporations, and alternative energy and mining projects.

The influx of foreign direct investment will be welcome for Pakistan, whose foreign reserves have dropped to $8.2bn, or enough for two months of imports, and where domestic investment has dried up amid tightening economic space.

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