By Agha Iqrar Haroon
The Saudi National Day is celebrated in Saudi Arabia annually on September 23 to commemorate the renaming of the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by a royal decree from King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1932. It was made a national holiday by King Abdullah in 2005.
The Saudi National Day is celebrated with folklore dances, songs, and traditional festivals. The roads and buildings are decorated with Saudi flags and the people wear green and white dresses, there are also green and white Saudi balloons all around the kingdom.
I believe that Pakistan this year should celebrate this event in different cities of Pakistan to express our love for our time-tested brotherly relationship and for giving a gesture of brotherhood with Saudis as a Nation because Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not only two brotherly Muslims states rather they are two strategic partners since decades.
Pakistan has benefited enormously from the Saudi generosity in the shape of diplomatic, financial support and Saudi Arabia always comes forward to bail Pakistan out from any adverse circumstances in the shape of diplomatic and moral help, financial aids, and supply of oil on deferred payments.
Pak Saudi Fertilizers Ltd (Now Fauji Fertilizer), International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI), Faisal Mosque, and such other projects are landmarks in Pak-Saudi bilateral relationships.
If we go through the history of Saudis grants to Pakistan, one cannot forget of $10 million during the 2005 earthquake, $170 million during the 2010/11 floods, and a $1.5 billion grant when Pakistan faced an economic crisis in 2014. Since the 1960s. Saudi Arabia spent millions of dollars across Pakistan as part of humanitarian efforts aimed at alleviating human suffering and ensuring that all people are given the opportunity to live healthy lives.
The role of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSHARC) is marked with relief efforts in disaster areas, housing projects for the poor, development of basic healthcare units in rural regions, construction of schools and skill centres for children, as well as social uplift projects like building of mosques in Pakistan.
The Pak-Saudi bilateral relationship was consolidated by the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Pakistan in the recent past.
As a journalist, I witnessed enormous help provided by the United States, UAE, and Saudi Arabia during 2005 earthquake relief activities when the world failed to help Pakistan stating that the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami made had made world relief body in the state of fatigue. There were US CH-47 Chinooks transporting relief goods to earthquake-hit areas filled with mostly relief goods coming from UAE and Saudi Arabia. The US relief teams were working around the clock and Saudi support goods were arriving almost every day.
For the earthquake victims in Pakistan, aid had come from Saudi Arabia in the form of medicine and relief goods, food bags, dates, flour bags, tents, and blankets.
I as a journalist also covered other disaster events including the 2010 floods and again Riyadh stood with Pakistan like a real brother. Saudi Arabia sent dates and milk, relief good containers, set up camps, distributed meat, food boxes, as well as maternity kits to needy people for flood relief. Many charity items were donated by the Saudi public for this cause too.
Apart from relief activities, the Saudis have always been at the forefront of the social development of the poor in Pakistan. In this regard, numerous housing, health, education, and religious projects are underway in the country.
According to the KSHARC report, housing projects in rural areas of all four provinces of the Country have been completed mostly in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
According to the data available, the construction of a total of 11,271 houses had been intended by the Saudi government, and most of these have been completed and handed over to the people in need. Some 90,308 people have so far benefited from this program.
The Saudis have provided help for healthcare relief efforts, which include the building of basic healthcare centres as well as the setting up of water cleaning plants
Riyadh has also been providing support for building schools and basic skill centres in mostly rural establishments across Pakistan.
It may also be mentioned that Saudi Arabia launched the Winter Relief Project (WRP) in Pakistan in 2020 under King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief). Through this project, as many as 30,000 winter bags (weighed 180 tons) were distributed in four provinces in Pakistan and the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan himself supervised the operation.
According to the available data, the projects the KP got 8,000 bags for six districts–Chitral, Shangla, Kohistan, Buner, Mansehra, and Swat. Azad Kashmir got 7,500 winter bags for six districts, including Neelum, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Haveli, Hattiyan Bala, and Bagh) while 7500 winter bags for Gilgit Baltistan (GB) distributed in five districts including Astor, Kharmang, Ghanche, Shigar, and Ghize. Balochistan got 7,000-winter bags and its four districts Ziarat, Kallat, Pishin, Zhob.
According to KS-Relief (Pakistan), each package contains two blankets, men’s and women’s shawls, 5 pairs of socks, gloves, and caps at a total cost of $1.5 million, and 150,000 individuals will benefit from this project. This project comes under the umbrella of humanitarian projects by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre to assist needy families living in the coldest areas in (21) regions across Pakistan.
There is a saying “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. Saudi Arabia always stands with Pakistan whenever we need the support of friends therefore we should consider our relations with Saudi Arabia as a special relationship and should not value these relations through “need-based” or “event-based” propositions.
Saudi Arabia has its own foreign policy and it has every right to frame its bilateral relations and proactive foreign policy with different Countries according to its own diplomatic demands and circumstances.
An independent and successful foreign policy is always based on mutual respect and free of strings and compulsions. Instead of trying to dictate our friends to reshape their foreign policy according to our wishes, we should place our relationship over and above “event driven” decision-making patterns.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.