Pak, Saudi officials seek closer ties

Pakistani parliamentarians Mushahid Hussain, left, and Farhatullah Babar, right, with Pakistan Consul General Aftab Khokhar during a conversation with journalists in Jeddah.

Pakistani parliamentarians Mushahid Hussain, left, and Farhatullah Babar, right, with Pakistan Consul General Aftab Khokhar during a conversation with journalists in Jeddah.

Visiting Pakistani parliamentarians and scholars have called for greater people-to-people exchanges with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the two countries’ social, economic and cultural ties.

Sen. Mushahid Hussain, who led the six-member delegation, made the call at a dinner hosted by Pakistan Consul General Aftab Khokhar at his residence on Friday.
Khokhar said the visit has resulted in useful interaction between Saudi and Pakistani officials.

The delegation included senators Farhatullah Babar and Najma Hameed, and accompanying scholars Allama Muhammad Hussain Akbar, Allama Fakhar Hasan Al-Karavi and Qazi Niyaz Hussain.

The delegation had a series of meetings with the chief and members of the Shoura Council, and leading members of Saudi society in Makkah, Madinah, Riyadh and Taif.
Hussain said the delegation was unique because it had representatives from many sections of Pakistani society. The Shoura Council had invited the delegation to visit the country.

He said the two sides discussed bilateral relations, and the region’s political and parliamentary developments. He said there was a need to counter Western ideology and anti-Islam sentiments with dialogue and reason.

“The key point is that we should institutionalize this Saudi-Pakistan dialogue, which includes parliamentarians and scholars. This was the first time we had open discussion, so it was a very important visit. Also, our economic futures are linked,” he said.

“The relationship between the Kingdom and Pakistan at state level is very strong but this is missing between people and parliamentarians,” he said.

Both sides agreed that Saudi and Pakistani legislators could learn from each other and urged closer cooperation and greater exchanges.

Hussain said that Pakistan wants to develop ties with the Kingdom because there is a shift in economic and political power from the West to the East. “Both the countries have always stood by each other in testing times. The Kingdom recently gave Pakistan a donation of $1.5 billion, which we appreciate,” he said.

He said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have shared security interests. Saudi Arabia’s leadership role, he said, is important for Pakistan’s stability and unity. He also urged greater solidarity among Muslims in general.

The second dialogue will be held in Pakistan in the last quarter of 2014, and include an invitation to Saudi journalists.

Hussain said discussions between the two sides also focused on terrorism because Pakistan wanted to learn more about the Kingdom’s successful crackdown on extremists here.

Akbar said misunderstandings on terror-related and other issues were ironed out during discussions. There should be more interaction between the scholars of the two countries on these issues, he said.

He said the media could play a positive role in dealing with differences between the two countries. The fact that this dialogue would be institutionalized would also help in this regard, he said.

He said scholars can identify extremism in society but strong governments are needed because many extremist groups can only be dealt with by force.

In Pakistan, 145 leading scholars have issued an edict condemning the incitement of hatred as un-Islamic.

“We have to work together to overcome all forms of terrorism. This has been the realization in Pakistan and the Kingdom,” he said.





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