January 13, 2009, 9:32 AM
Saudi Intel Chief In Pakistan
Posted by Farhan Bokhari
This story was written by CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad.
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday dispatched the powerful head of its intelligence service to Pakistan to press the country’s ruling regime for immediate action in dealing with militants linked to the Mumbai terrorist attacks last November, a senior Pakistani government official and an Arab diplomat based in Islamabad told CBS News. Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, the head of Saudi intelligence, met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani but neither that meeting nor its details were publicly confirmed by the Pakistani government. "The Saudi prince is here to urge Pakistan to do all that is necessary for diffusing tensions with India," an Arab diplomat stationed in Islamabad told CBS News on condition of anonymity. A Pakistani official who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said the Saudi prince conveyed his nation's support to Pakistan "in all areas," adding "they (Saudis) obviously have an interest in Pakistan’s stability and they do not want us to face any frictions including (friction) with our neighboring countries." Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich desert kingdom, has built up close ties with Pakistan over the past four decades. In the 1970s, Pakistan began defense and military cooperation with the Saudis by training officers of the Royal Saudi Armed forces and subsequently by dispatching its troops to the Kingdom for security duties. In the past, there have also been unconfirmed reports of Saudi Arabia using a portion of its very sizeable oil revenue to pay for Pakistan’s purchase of conventional weapons, though the secretive nature of Saudi Arabia has made it virtually impossible to confirm any of these reports. But Saudi officials have traveled to Pakistan during periods of crisis for the country, indicating the Kingdom’s firm resolve to help the regime in Islamabad go through challenging times. Prince Muqrin’s last such high-profile visit took place in summer 2008 when Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf faced a likely parliamentary impeachment by political parties which were opposed to his rule. Musharraf eventually stepped down voluntarily rather than face an impeachment which would have sharply divided the country. Analysts then said, part of the reason for Musharraf to voluntarily step down was because he was privately urged by the Saudis to avoid further confrontation with his political opponents. On Tuesday, the Arab diplomat who spoke to CBS News said, Pakistan’s foreign partners, notably the U.S., Saudi Arabia and China, had all privately urged the country to prosecute such militant hardliners who are thought to have been linked with those who carried out the Mumbai attacks. Indian officials following those attacks accused members of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LET), a Pakistan-based and banned militant group for carrying out those attacks. Indian officials have also accused members of Jamaat-ud-dawa, an Islamic charity and allegedly a front for LET, for providing support to the Mumbai attackers. In December, Pakistan also banned Jamaat-ud-dawa and ordered a closure of its offices across the country. A group of militants including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, a firebrand cleric and founder of LET, remain under house arrest in Pakistan since they were detained after the Mumbai attacks.