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Pakistan’s Peripatetic PM Aims to Raise Country’s Int’l Profile
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan arrives in Bahrain. (Press Information Department, Government of Pakistan)

Pakistan’s Peripatetic PM Aims to Raise Country’s Int’l Profile

Imran Khan visits Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Switzerland, Malaysia

[Islamabad] King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa bestowed his country’s highest civilian honor on visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday, during the latter’s first visit to the Gulf state since he took office in August 2018.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa welcomed Khan at Manama airport. During his one-day visit, Khan visited the king’s Ghudaibya Palace in Manama, where he received the honor in an impressive ceremony, Radio Pakistan reported. He then proceeded to Sakhir Palace in Bahrain’s western desert region, where the monarch personally received him. Khan participated in Bahrain’s National Day celebrations as the guest of honor.

King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (right) grants Bahrain’s highest civil award to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. (Press Information Department, Government of Pakistan)

Khan and the crown prince attended the signing of Memorandums of Understanding in the fields of higher education and scientific research, sports and medical sciences. The two men held a one-on-one meeting where they discussed Pakistan-Bahrain bilateral issues and the regional situation, Radio Pakistan further reported.

Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister for information and broadcasting, said she was confident that Khan’s visit to Bahrain would usher in a new era in the relationship between the countries.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, she said Bahrain’s decision to honor Khan reflected the prime minister’s rising clout and improving image in the region and the world.

Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari, special assistant to the prime minister for overseas Pakistanis and human resource development, told The Media Line that more than 100,000 Pakistanis were working in Bahrain, including as members of the Bahrain Defense Force. These Pakistanis were contributing to the kingdom’s socioeconomic development and playing a pivotal role in strengthening bilateral ties, Bukhari added.

Prof. Sajid Bukhari, an Islamabad-based expert on international relations, told The Media Line that “Pakistan and Bahrain, both Islamic countries, share a common faith and values which further strengthen the bond between the two countries. Bahrain is an important strategically located Gulf state.

“Imran Khan-led Pakistan’s diplomatic image is improving worldwide. Imran Khan’s first-ever visit to Bahrain will reinforce the existing relationship between the two countries,” Bukhari continued.

Bukhari further told The Media Line, “Indeed, PM Khan very well understands the importance of regional peace and stability. In his first speech to the nation, Imran Khan vowed to resolve the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two strategic players in the Middle East, and time has proved that he did it.

“In October 2019, Khan had visited Saudi Arabia and Iran as he was assigned by the US President Donald Trump to mediate and de-escalate the tensions between the two Gulf powers. Khan mediated at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, mostly due to attacks on Saudi oil refineries that Riyadh had blamed on Tehran,” Bukhari said.

Pakistan and Bahrain are relatively close geographically and the presence of a large number of Pakistanis working in the Gulf state, in particular, those serving in the military, “ensures that our socioeconomic ties will continue to grow,” he added.

Before departing for Bahrain, Khan met with the US Senator Lindsey Graham at Noor Khan Air Force Base in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The Republican senator, accompanied by a high-level delegation, arrived in Islamabad on Monday and held talks with Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, director-general of the Pakistani Armed Forces Media Wing, said in a tweet that “US Senator Lindsey Graham called on COAS [the Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa]. Regional security including Afghan Reconciliation Process was discussed. The visiting dignitary acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts towards regional peace and stability.”

A few days earlier, on Saturday, Khan visited Saudi Arabia. The prime minister held wide-ranging consultations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman covering bilateral matters and developments in the region.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, he emphasized the strategic importance of the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship and termed it a pivotal partnership for peace, progress and prosperity.

Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gave Imran Khan a new car worth 3.2 million Pakistani rupees (about $21,000). The X70 Proton is Malaysian-made and production was launched in December 2018.

The X70 SUV was handed over in a ceremony held on December 16, at the Malaysian Embassy in Islamabad. The keys were handed over to Abdul Razzak Dawood, Khan’s adviser for commerce, by Malaysian High Commissioner (i.e., ambassador) Ikram Ibrahim.

Malaysian High Commissioner Ikram Ibrahim hands keys of X70 SUV to Abdul Razzak Dawood, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s adviser for commerce, at the Malaysian Embassy in Islamabad, December 16. (Press Information Department, Government of Pakistan)

Mohamad had already announced that an assembly plant for the vehicle would be established in Pakistan.

Khan, along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and leaders from Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Germany, has been invited to co-convene the Global Refugee Forum on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Global Refugee Forum is the first major meeting on refugees of the 21st century. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will also address the event.

Khan will then attend the Kuala Lumpur Conference 2019 being hosted by Malaysia and scheduled for December 19-21. The assembly, seen as an alternative to the Jeddah-headquartered Organization of Islamic Cooperation and a challenge to Saudi leadership, will be attended by Qatari, Turkish and Iranian leaders, as well as some 450 Islamic clerics and scholars from across the world. Saudi Arabia was not invited to the event.

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