Pledging to further uplift cordial ties, PM to embark on maiden three-day visit to KSA Today

PM speaks with Bill Gates; reiterates govt’s commitment to polio eradication

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is scheduled to pay a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia from April 28-30, at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. This would be the prime minister’s first visit abroad after assuming the office earlier this month. The prime minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including key members of the cabinet.

During the visit, he will have bilateral interaction with the Saudi leadership, with a particular focus on advancing economic, trade, and investment ties and creating greater opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia. The two sides will also exchange views on a range of regional and international issues of mutual interest. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are bound by fraternal relationships marked by mutual trust and understanding, close cooperation, and an abiding tradition of supporting each other. The people of Pakistan hold the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in the highest esteem. The bilateral relationship is complemented by close mutual collaboration at regional and international fora. Saudi Arabia is a member of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis, contributing to the progress, prosperity, and economic development of the two brotherly countries. The regular high-level visits are a key feature of this special relationship. The prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia will impart a strong impetus to deepening bilateral cooperation in diverse fields and further reinforce the growing partnership between the two countries. Meanwhile earlier to this, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday spoke on the telephone with Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Bill Gates and reiterated his government’s commitment to eradicate all forms of polio from the country. The telephonic interaction came after Pakistan recently reported a polio case in a child in North Waziristan, after a hiatus of 15 months.

While noting that only one case of polio was recorded in 2021, the prime minister stressed that his government remained committed to eradicating all forms of polio from the country.

He expressed grave concern on the first case of poliovirus in 2022, after 15 months, which was recently confirmed in a child in North Waziristan.

He noted that a special emergency response plan for South Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province was already under implementation to scale up and improve the quality of the polio eradication programme and increase security of frontline health workers.

During the telephonic conversation, the ongoing public health and social sector programmes supported by BMGF in Pakistan were discussed, including polio eradication and the Foundation’s support towards improving immunisation, nutrition and financial inclusion services in Pakistan. The prime minister underscored that Pakistan deeply valued its cooperation with BMGF. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to further solidifying its fruitful partnership with the Foundation in all the ongoing areas of work. Pakistan has maintained progress towards polio eradication and appreciated the invaluable assistance provided by BMGF in that regard, he added. Bill Gates acknowledged the positive progress and reiterated the Foundation’s continued support to Pakistan for ensuring that no child was at risk of paralysis due to poliovirus. Recalling the polio-related challenges faced by Afghanistan, the prime minister expressed satisfaction over the resumption of polio vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday directed the reinclusion of eligible persons into Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), who were struck out of the beneficiary list by the previous government without any reason.

He gave the direction in a meeting held with Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation Shazia Atta Marri. The prime minister welcomed devising a procedure about making an appeal for reinclusion of the persons expelled from BISP. PM Shehbaz Sharif was briefed on the proposed procedure of the appeal for such 820,000 people who were evicted from the BISP by the previous government without any investigation. Shazia Marri also updated the prime minister regarding the working of her ministry.

She paid tribute to PM Sharif for announcing assistance for the deserving people of Balochistan under BISP and offering scholarships to students besides extending financial support to the parents of female students. President of Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians and Member of National Assembly Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif here.

Federal ministers Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Khawaja Saad Rafiq were also present. During the meeting, they discussed the overall political situation in the country. The prime minister said that the country’s development was linked with the supremacy of the constitution and the democratic process. They agreed to work in unison with all political parties for democratic stability as well as the public welfare. The prime minister congratulated Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on taking the oath as federal minister and reiterated resolve to overcome the prevailing challenges through mutual cooperation. Jammiat-e-Ulema Islam-F leaders Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Akram Khan Durrani Wednesday called on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to discuss the political situation. During the meeting, they agreed for mutual cooperation among all the political parties for strengthening of democracy and ensuring of public welfare.

Separately, a delegation of JUI-F comprising Minister for Communications Maulana Asad Mahmood, Minister for Religious Affairs Maulana Abdul Shakoor, Minister for Housing and Works Maulana Abdul Wasay and Minister for SAFRON Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood, called on the prime minister. During the meeting, they discussed the current political situation in the country and agreed to work with all the political parties for the strengthening of democracy.

Later, Syeda Nausheen Zehra, a PML-N member of the National Assembly, also called on the prime minister.

She appreciated the prime minister for implementation of public welfare projects on priority basis and providing subsidies on flour and other essential commodities during the month of Ramazan. She also briefed the prime minister over the issues of her constituency.

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