Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz arrived in Pakistan yesterday for a two-day state visit, the final leg of his four-nation Asian tour that also included visits to China, India and Malaysia. While he has visited Pakistan five times, most recently as Crown Prince in October 2003, it is King Abdullah’s first visit as ruler.
He was welcomed at the airport by both President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shawkat Aziz, a reflection of the strong ties between the two nations. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis lined the road from the airport to welcome the King.
King Abdullah and Pakistani President Musharraf held official talks both last night and today. Discussions focused on the war on terror and expanding trade ties, as well as international issues such as Kashmir, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq, Iran’s nuclear program, Afghanistan and reform of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Today, the King also met with Prime Minister Aziz, who hosted a luncheon in his honor.
In a ceremony today, King Abdullah, President Musharraf and Prime Minister Aziz witnessed the signing of a number of agreements between the two nations. Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmoud Kasuri signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on political consultations between the Saudi and Pakistani foreign ministries. The agreements included accords on technical education, the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion, as well as educational and scientific cooperation.
President Musharraf honored King Abdullah by conferring upon him Pakistan’s highest civil award, Nishan-e-Pakistan, in a colorful investiture ceremony at the presidential palace last night. The citation for the award recognized King Abdullah’s outstanding contribution to Saudi-Pakistani understanding and cooperation and for his service to the Muslim nation.
President Musharraf also hosted a state banquet in King Abdullah’s honor last night. In remarks at the banquet, King Abdullah underscored the close Saudi-Pakistani relationship, and praised the contribution of some one million Pakistani nationals living in the Kingdom to the development of both nations. He said he hoped that talks between India and Pakistan would lead to the desired results, and that a just settlement would reinforce regional stability.
In turn, President Musharraf highlighted the strong friendship between the two nations and their efforts to resolve regional conflicts, such as Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the global danger of terrorism. On Kashmir, Musharraf said he believes improved relations between the India and Pakistan have provided a “unique opportunity” to address the issue.
Before departing Pakistan, King Abdullah planted a tree at the Shakarparian Hills garden near Islamabad. It is customary for visiting heads of state or rulers to plant a tree in the garden.