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Kingdom to fund housing projects for flood-hit Pakistanis

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Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Abdulaziz Ibrahim Saleh Al-Ghadeer has announced a comprehensive plan to identify major development priorities and finance some important projects for Pakistan, especially in disaster-hit regions.

Consequently the Kingdom will sign an MoU next week to fund the construction of 200 new houses in the flood-ravaged regions of Pakistan, a university and a world-class hospital in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Al-Ghadeer disclosed the initiative in an interview reviewing the growth in Saudi-Pakistani relations during a reception hosted in his honor by a group of high-ranking Saudi and Pakistani officials and businessmen in Riyadh yesterday. The event was attended by Pakistani Ambassador Mohammed Naeem Khan, Talat Mahmood Butt, a Pakistani businessman, and Abdul Qadeer Mirza, a senior executive of Saudi-French Bank.

"The (Kingdom's) funding will help communities throughout Pakistan meet their pressing infrastructure needs, support economic growth and help stimulate the economy," said Al-Ghadeer. "We are going to sign a contract next week to build 200 houses for flood affected people within the framework of the King Abdullah's Relief Campaign for Pakistani People (KARCPP)," said the envoy adding that these houses will be built in different regions of Pakistan. "Saudi Arabia will always stand with Pakistani brothers in difficult times."

Since its inception in 2005, KARCPP has funded several housing and infrastructure projects in the disaster-hit areas of Pakistan. It recently signed an agreement for relief and development projects including installation of water pumps for hospitals, mosques and local communities living in the flood-affected areas of the Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh.

On the projects to be funded by Riyadh in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Al-Ghadeer pointed out that "the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) is working on the proposal to support construction of a hospital and a university in that region." The Azad Jammu and Kashmir region suffered a magnitude 7.6 earthquake some years ago, which destroyed most of the buildings. "Hence the construction of the university is a top priority," said the envoy.

He noted that he visited the flood affected areas and still visits Azad Jammu and Kashmir where rehabilitation efforts required direction, saying the Saudi team was working to implement the projects. He added that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah had directed all embassy officials to stand by Pakistan. "SFD is in the process of helping finance the building of a university and hospital in the Pakistani side of Kashmir," he said.

Al-Ghadeer said that he held wide-ranging talks with Sardar Mohammed Yaqoub, the newly elected president of Azad Kashmir, to discuss issues of common concern adding that he would shortly hold talks with senior Pakistani officials including Ambassador Khan to prepare a road map for joint program.

He said three high-profile Saudi delegations visited Pakistan this year including Abdulaziz Khoja, minister of Culture and Information. Khoja signed an agreement to enhance cooperation in the fields of culture and media during the visit.

Al-Ghadeer, who attended the signing ceremony in Islamabad, said that "we will continue to promote these kinds of initiatives in future in all fields." Turning to education, he said there were more than 200 Saudi students in Pakistan currently pursuing higher studies. "Under the provisions of King Abdullah Scholarship Program, Saudi students are free to choose the country and cities for education."

Referring to growing defense cooperation, he said that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have had excellent relations in the defense field. "We exchanged information and military personnel in the past," said the envoy, adding that the two countries maintain close military ties, providing extensive support to each other. He pointed out that Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani conducted an official visit to Saudi Arabia recently.

He said that the Kingdom would continue to support Pakistan on all fronts. Riyadh has also provided extensive religious and education aid to Pakistan in the past. It has been a major contributor to the construction of mosques and schools in that country. A major Pakistani city Lyallpur was renamed Faisalabad in 1977 in honor of late King Faisal.

Al-Ghadee, is the first envoy based in Pakistan to receive an honorary doctorate degree from the Islamic University Bahawalpur. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani recently conferred the degree at the university convocation. The envoy was given the doctorate in recognition of his untiring efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries.

http://arabnews.com