Islamabad,Riyadh to scale up efforts to counter Islamic State threat

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday agreed to redouble their efforts to deal with the threat posed by terrorist groups, particularly Da’ish (Islamic State), which is said to be involved in recent terrorist attacks in the Kingdom.

The agreement was reached during high-level talks between Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who made a stopover in Islamabad late Sunday on his way to China.

Prince Mohammed, who is known as one of the most powerful and influential Saudi ministers, was received at Nur Khan Airbase by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and other senior officials.

Shortly after landing, the deputy crown prince was taken to the Prime Minister House where he held talks with Premier Nawaz Sharif.

The state-run PTV reported that chiefs of the three services, including Army chief General Raheel Sharif, were also present at the PM House.

The talks remained focused on the current regional situation particularly in the Middle East and efforts to deal with threats posed by Da’ish.

In July, a long-time Pakistani resident Abdullah Qalzar blew himself up near the US Consulate in Jeddah, injuring two security officers. At least a dozen Pakistanis were then arrested in security sweeps following the blast.

Last week, Saudi authorities discovered a Pakistani identity card along with four kilos of explosives in the bag of a suspected bomber in Qatif. The bomber was intercepted by officials near a mosque in the city and shot dead when he allegedly tried to set off the bomb.

Saudi Arabia considers Pakistan’s support as critical to its efforts in furthering its interests in the Middle East.

The two countries have already been sharing intelligence and closely cooperating with each other to deal with common threat of terrorism, said an official familiar with the talks.

The official, who requested anonymity, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s firm commitment to Saudi Arabia to protect its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face off current threats.

Pakistan is part of the Saudi-led alliance that the Kingdom cobbled together in December last year to fight terrorist groups, including the Islamic State or IS.

Saudi media reported that Prince Mohammed’s visit to Pakistan was significant keeping in view the role of Pakistan in efforts directed to “ensure peace and security in the Middle East and in its extended neighbourhood.”

The visit was part of the regular exchange of visits of top Saudi and Pakistani officials, said Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Manzoorul Haq.

This is Prince Mohammed’s second visit to Islamabad this year after he travelled to the country in January to drum up support for a Saudi-led 34 nation counter terrorism alliance.

Relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia saw an unprecedented strain last year when the country’s Parliament voted against sending ground troops to Yemen to fight the Houthi rebels.

But lately, the two sides have managed to overcome the rough patch in their ties after Pakistan joined the Saudi-led alliance of likeminded Muslim countries to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts.

The prime minister has paid four visits to Saudi Arabia since January this year.

“These visits indicate that the Kingdom and Pakistan share common political, strategic and economic objectives,” Arab News reported ahead of Prince Mohammed’s visit to Pakistan.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relations and have identical viewpoints on major regional and international issues,” it added.

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