Fighter jets escorted Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s plane through Pakistani airspace and a 21-gun salute greeted him upon landing Sunday evening at the Nur Khan Airbase in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The federal capital was blanketed with enormous posters of the royal guest, grinning beneath his familiar red and white-checked headscarf. Banners welcomed him to his ‘second home’. The security arrangements have been extraordinary, with thousands of armed forces scheduled to guard various venues and Saudi security teams working with their Pakistani counterparts for weeks. The capital region will stay on high alert during the visit, with sharpshooters stationed on rooftops, airspace to be shut down, cellphone service suspended at times and major roads blocked. Keeping in view the significance of Pak-Saudi relations, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) accorded a warm welcome to the crown prince. The formations of PAF’s JF-17 Thunder and F-16 Falcons escorted the special Boeing 788 aircraft of the royal dignitary from the blue waters of the Arabian Sea in the south to the Nur Khan Air Base on the fringes of the Margalla Hills in Islamabad. The red carpet rolled out for Prince Mohammed, the first Saudi leader to visit Pakistan in 15 years, has surpassed all foreign state visits in the recent memory. With high security planned for the capital and Rawalpindi, several luxury hotels emptied to accommodate his large entourage, and breathless news coverage advancing his trip, nothing has been left to chance. A delegation of the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), led by Pakistan’s former army chief General (r) Raheel Sharif, visited Islamabad last week to review security arrangements for the royal visit. The federal capital’s ‘red zone’, which houses the Parliament House and the Presidency, has been sealed off while civil aviation authorities were told to reschedule flights during the royal guests’ arrival and departure. As part of the measures, more than 1,000 security checkpoints have been established and heavy vehicles banned from plying on important roads in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Published in Daily Times, February 18th 2019.