WHEN PUNJAB HOUSE LOOKED A PART OF THE HOLY LAND

Zahid Malik

Monday, February 17, 2014 – Islamabad–The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Ghadeer, a perfectionist and one of the most vibrant member of the diplomatic corps in Islamabad, hosted a fabulous 20-course banquet in honour of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Deputy Premier of the Kingdom on Sunday.

The venue was the Punjab House, which after the Aiwan-i-Sadr and the Prime Minister House, is considered to be the third most prestigious Hill Top House, and a seat of decisive power in Islamabad. It was chilly evening and in the backdrop ofovercast Margalla Hills, about 150 guests, 50 high-profile Saudis and about 100 most influential Pakistanis, gathered in a festive mood at the lights-drenched Punjab House. It was a rare scene of jubilation and genuine respect for the Crown Princewho was understandably the center of attention for all the guests.

Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who had personally welcomed the Royal guest at the Nur Khan Chaklala Airbase on Saturday, was moving all around to say Ahlan-wa-Sahlan to the Saudi dignitaries and Assalam-o-Alaikum to the distinguished Pakistanis including smartly dressed Services Chiefs and other prominent personalities from different walks of life. Mian Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab, who enjoys an enviable clout and rapport in the Kingdom, was particularly taking care of the Saudi guests. Among the Islamabad-based Ambassadors only the Arab Ambassadors were invited and the Excellencies attired in their traditional national dresses added another Arabian touch to the fabulous Royal event.

It was for the first time in the history of Pakistan that the fool-proof, high alert security of the Royal entourage was tasked to the ever-ready ‘triple one’, now a house-hold name in Pakistan.

As the Crown Prince is also Defence Minister of the Kingdom, therefore, an echo of a message was quite clear and audible that Saudi Arabia has now finally decided to give a new deeper and wider dimension to its relations with nuclear Pakistan, including, of course, its strategic relations. It augurs well for Pakistan as well as Saudi Arabia.

There were only two ladies visible: Elegant Tasnim Aslam, Spokesperson of the Foreign Office and Ms Naila Chohan, Additional Secretary Foreign Affairs. Another towering lady could have added grace and sublimity to Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Ghadeer’s banquet but alas she is no more with us i.e. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Leaders of the political parties in theParliament were also present.

It was, in any case, a memorable banquet at the picturesque Punjab House, which looked like a part of the Holy Land.