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Pakistan-Saudi rift: What happened? | Saudi Arabia News



Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has reaffirmed the strength of its relations with Saudi Arabia this week after a diplomatic spat sparked by perceived inaction by the Gulf kingdom on the issue of Kashmir threatened to derail what has been one of the South Asian country’s strongest alliances in the region.

Earlier this month, Pakistan accused the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of 57 Muslim-majority countries that is led by Saudi Arabia, of inaction over the Kashmir issue – a key policy issue for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan – and threatened to hold a rival meeting that would bypass the group.

“I am once again respectfully telling the OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation,” said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a television news appearance on August 4.

“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

Pakistan has been trying to drum up international support following New Delhi’s decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status last August.

The call was a shot across the bows, ostensibly challenging Saudi Arabian hegemony over leadership of the Muslim world, analysts say, and cut to the heart of the Gulf kingdom’s foreign policy.

“It was extraordinary and unprecedented,” says Cyril Almeida, senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and a Pakistani journalist. “No one had ever seen anything like it before [in the Pakistan-Saudi relationship].”

In response, Saudi Arabia withdrew a $1bn interest-free loan it had extended to Pakistan in November 2018, when the country was in dire economic straits and required foreign reserves to avoid a possible sovereign default.

The kingdom has also, so far, refused to renew a deferred oil payments scheme that was part of the same package, aimed at helping Pakistan ease its import bill.

On August 17, Pakistan’s powerful Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-General Qamar Javed Bajwa was dispatched to Saudi Arabia for talks that were downplayed by a military spokesperson as being “routine” and dealing with “military-to-military” matters.

Days later, Pakistan’s foreign office issued a statement that was glowing in its praise of the OIC’s role on Kashmir, and on Monday, Foreign Minister Qureshi appeared to walk back the comments that initiated the rift.

“The OIC has passed many resolutions on Kashmir and there is no ambiguity in them,” he told reporters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. “They are clear, they are assertive and they are in line with Pakistan’s position.

“I can say to you clearly today: on the issue of Kashmir, Saudi Arabia does not have any difference of opinion [with Pakistan].”

So, what exactly happened?

‘Very out of character’

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have historically held very close ties, with the former dependent on the Gulf kingdom’s oil supplies and financial largesse in times of economic strife.

Last year, the two countries’ trade relationship totalled more than $1.7bn, of which 74 percent consisted of Pakistani oil imports from Saudi Arabia, as per Pakistani central bank data. In all, Pakistan imports roughly a quarter of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is also home to more than 2.5 million Pakistani expatriate workers, whose remittances form a major portion of Pakistan’s incoming foreign reserves every year. Last month, Pakistanis resident in Saudi Arabia sent home more than $821m, roughly 30 percent of all remittances into the country, according to central bank data.

The two countries have also had close military ties, with Pakistan providing troops and training to the kingdom at its request.

“The military partnership with Pakistan is important to Saudi Arabia,” says Madiha Afzal, a foreign policy fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution.

“And Pakistan’s population brings a venue for Saudi religious soft power and influence – Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world, it is majority Sunni, and Saudi Arabia wants it squarely in its corner.”

Given the close ties, Afzal says Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi’s initial remarks were “very out of character for Pakistan”.

Moreover, the threat to convene a meeting bypassing the OIC “would directly undermine Saudi Arabia’s posture, and position, of leadership in the Muslim world”.

This is not the first time Pakistan has posited the possibility of an alternate bloc. In December, Malaysia hosted the Kuala Lumpur Summit, a group that rivalled the OIC and was initiated by Malaysia, Saudi rival Turkey and Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Khan pulled out of attending the summit at the last minute, and in later remarks attributed his decision to Saudi objections to the group.

Pakistan has also objected to growing ties between Saudi Arabia and India, Pakistan’s eastern neighbour, with whom it has fought three full-scale wars since both countries gained independence from the British in 1947.

On a visit to Islamabad in 2019 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) signed $20bn in projects with the South Asian country.

A visit to New Delhi immediately after saw MBS say he expected to invest more than $100bn in Pakistan’s regional rival. Saudi-India bilateral trade stands at more than $30bn.

In recent years, under MBS, a more pro-active Saudi Arabian foreign policy has seen countries such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar fall squarely in its crosshairs.

But could Pakistan pivot away from its historic sponsor?

“The issue really was challenging Saudi leadership of the Muslim world,” says James Dorsey, a Singapore-based academic and journalist who has studied Pakistan-Saudi ties for decades. “It would mean Pakistan hooking up with Turkey, Iran, Qatar and possibly Malaysia and Indonesia, three of which are Saudi rivals.”

That pivot, however, is unlikely to happen given current circumstances, says Dorsey.

“Pakistan needs energy supplies, finance and investment. The Saudis seem to have called finance and potentially energy into question given the lack of response to a Pakistani request for an extension of the delay in Saudi oil supplies,” he says.

Given Pakistan’s still tenuous economic prospects – the economy shrunk by 0.38 percent in the last financial year, the first time it has done so in more than 60 years – why pick the fight at all, then?

“It is a bit of a mystery,” says Almeida, the journalist.

“Conventional wisdom since Qureshi’s outburst on local TV is that the foreign minister got carried away – that he was likely tasked by the [Pakistani] military to diplomatically raise Pakistan’s concerns with Saudi Arabia, but delivered a message that in substance and tone was beyond the brief he was given.”

‘Delicately walk back’

Qureshi’s remarks this week, and an earlier Foreign Office (FO) statement, appeared at stark odds with those made earlier, and appear to signal a de-escalation in tensions, analysts have said.

“I think that [FO] statement, more than anything, suggests that Pakistan will not take the actions [the foreign minister] hinted at in his remarks,” says Afzal. “And it suggests that the Saudi reaction – including on the [Pakistani army chief’s] trip – has led Pakistan to delicately walk back Qureshi’s comments.”

Afzal says the Pakistani walk-back indicated that the country “does not have the option of [turning away from Saudi Arabia] in any significant way”.

Dorsey believes the tensions will continue to simmer, albeit in private rather than public.

“Both sides likely will want to downplay the spat and prevent it from escalating,” he says. “But even if the Saudis back down, it will leave scars.”

For Almeida, Pakistan has developed other foreign allies to rely on in times of economic distress – notably China, with whom it is building the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – but the possibilities afforded by those relationships are not endless.

“The rise of China and the centrality of Pakistan to the Belt and Road Initiative has given Pakistan new strategic options,” he says. “China is believed to have provided emergency funds to Pakistan after the Saudis demanded a part of their loan back.

“[…] While surely neither Pakistan nor Saudi would want a rupture in ties, Pakistan is not as dependent on Saudi assistance as it may once have been.”

Afzal says Saudi Arabia appeared to have drawn a clear line in the sand and pushed Pakistan back across it.

“Pakistan’s expectations from the OIC and Saudi Arabia on Kashmir have now been tempered, and realism has set in on that front for Islamabad,” she says. “This ties Pakistan’s hands a bit on the issue of Kashmir’s autonomy.”

With that new boundary established, ties may soon resume at close to their previous tenor, she says.

“As long as Pakistan doesn’t push Saudi Arabia where it doesn’t want to be pushed (on Kashmir), the two countries can get past the spat.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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