- Government blames long march for much-anticipated visit’s postponement.
- PTI defends march, says MBS postponed Asia visit and not just Pakistan.
- MBS’ visit has been put off, FO says, and a date will be announced later.
ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition and PTI bickered over the postponement of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s (MBS) visit to Pakistan, The News reported Monday.
The bickering began with the statement of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Sunday claiming that MBS’ visit to Pakistan had been postponed due to the PTI’s ongoing long march towards Islamabad.
Taking to Twitter, Asif said: “Imran Khan’s first sit-in seven years ago had led to the cancellation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s to Pakistan and now the Saudi crown prince’s visit has been postponed due to the announcement of Nov 21 sit-in.”
“This person is working on an agenda against the country”.
The Saudi crown prince’s much-anticipated visit to Pakistan has been postponed, the Foreign Office (FO) confirmed last week, saying that a later date would be decided mutually.
However, the Foreign Office declined to comment on the remarks of the Defence Minister when The News approached it.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry then engaged in a Twitter spat with Asif over the issue
“Firstly, Khawaja Asif is the defence minister of Pakistan but morally he is so low as to feel no problem in telling a lie. Muhammad Bin Salman has postponed his visit to the whole of Asia, not just Pakistan,” he said in a tweet.
In another tweet, he said: “The second fact is that analysts in other countries are suggesting their rulers that dealing with the current rulers in Pakistan will show their disassociation with the people of Pakistan.”
“Hence, any leader interested in long-term relations with Pakistan would maintain his distance from the present rulers,” he said.
Meanwhile, PPP stalwart Senator Farhatullah Babar tweeted: “Postponement of visit of Saudi Crown Prince is a moment of reflection. Are there parallels with the postponement of President Xi’s scheduled visit to Pakistan in 2014?”
Prince Salman was due to reach Islamabad on November 21, on a two-day visit but the visit was not officially announced by either Riyadh or Islamabad.
However, diplomats did not contradict the reports on the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in the media. Even, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, after his recent meeting with Prince Salman, had remarked that he was looking forward to the monarch’s visit.
Initially, the news of the postponement of the Saudi prince’s visit broke out by media outlets in New Delhi on Saturday afternoon but the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not comment.
Later, they said it was because of “re-scheduling” issues. Like in Pakistan, Delhi had not officially announced the Monarch’s visit.
Besides Pakistan and India, Prince Salman was due to visit Indonesia, South Korea, and Thailand.
When The News contacted the Foreign Office’s spokesperson, she confirmed that the visit had been postponed while a new date would be announced later.
After a lot of interaction between Riyadh and Islamabad, around 7pm on Saturday, The News was told by a government official: “We will issue a coordinated announcement soon”.
However, no agreement could be reached and a coordinated statement was not issued. On Sunday, when The News reached out to the same official, it was told “not today”, despite the fact that Sunday is a working day in Saudi Arabia.