Pakistan says Saudi prince to visit, sign investment deals

Pakistan to welcome Saudi crown prince after voicing support during the outcry following the Khashoggi killing

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive in Islamabad later this week on an official visit that is expected to include the signing of agreements for billions of dollars of investment in the South Asian country.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said the prince would meet with Prime Minister Imran Khan during the two-day visit, which begins Saturday. It will be the crown prince's first visit to Pakistan since he was appointed heir to the throne in 2017.

Pakistan voiced support for the prince during the international outcry after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. The kingdom has long provided aid to Pakistan, and signed an agreement for a $6 billion assistance package after Khan attended an investment conference in October that saw a wave of cancellations linked to the Khashoggi killing.

Pakistan is in the grip of a major debt crisis, and is seeking a multi-billion-dollar bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Khashoggi, who had written critically about the prince, went missing on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. After denying any knowledge of his death for weeks, Saudi authorities eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed in an operation aimed at forcibly bringing the writer back to the kingdom. Saudi prosecutors say the plan was masterminded by two former advisers to the crown prince.

The kingdom denies the crown prince knew of the plot. The U.S. Senate, however, passed a unanimous resolution in December saying it believes the crown prince is to blame for the murder.

At a news conference Wednesday evening, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he hoped Saudi Arabia will make "a huge and extraordinary investment in Pakistan as a result of this visit." He said Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia have witnessed improvement in recent months.

Khan's adviser for commerce, Abdul Razzak Dawood told reporters he expects a $7 billion Saudi investment in the country in the next two years and that agreements will be signed between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia when the Saudi crown prince visits Pakistan.

Pakistan has close ties to neighboring Iran, Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, and maintains a balancing act between the two.

Qureshi said retired Pakistani Gen. Raheel Sharif, who heads a 39-member Saudi-led military alliance, told him ahead of Prince Mohammad's visit that the coalition was not formed against any particular region or country.

Pakistan declined to join the Saudi-led coalition waging war on Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen.