Pakistan rolls out red carpet welcome for UAE crown prince

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – The red carpet was rolled out for Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Islamabad yesterday, just weeks after his country offered USD3 billion to support Pakistan’s battered economy.

In a rare gesture, Prime Minister Imran Khan met Al Nahyan at the Pakistan Air Force base and a formation of air force jets marked his arrival with a flyby.

The Crown Prince was also presented with a guard of honour by a contingent of Pakistani armed forces.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major investment source, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement ahead of the visit.

More than 1.5 million Pakistanis live in the gulf state and send millions of dollars in remittances back home, it added.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) walks with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan upon arrival at the Nur Khan Air Force base in Islamabad. – AFP

The crown prince last visited Pakistan in January 2007.

Al Nahyan, who is also deputy chief of the UAE’s armed forces, “will have a one-on-one meeting” with Khan, the statement said.

The UAE announced in December last year it would deposit USD3 billion in the central bank of Pakistan to help “enhance liquidity” as the country struggles with a widening balance of payments crisis.

The Pakistani rupee plunged almost five per cent to a record low at the end of November last year, after what appeared to be the sixth devaluation by the central bank in the past year.

It also secured USD6 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia and struck a 12-month deal for a cash lifeline during Khan’s visit to the kingdom in October last year.

Islamabad has also received billions of dollars in Chinese loans to finance ambitious infrastructure projects.

A team from the International Monetary Fund visited Pakistan in November last year to discuss a possible bailout with officials but talks ended without agreement.