Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz…giving and achievements that figure high in the history of humanity

The deceased great leader has contributed, with the aid of his founding father, to the establishment of a fixed and powerful system based on application of sharia and social justice

Prince Sultan aided research centers and universities, showed utmost interest in providing studying opportunities for the poor

With the passing away of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz , Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, Saudi Arabia has lost not only an eminent personality from the House of Al Saud but also a great humanist, philanthropist and an illustrious Arab leader who had devoted his life and time to the service of his people in various walks of life.

Of course, to the international community Prince Sultan was known primarily as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Minister of Defense and Aviation—a role in which he had distinguished himself by strengthening and modernizing the armed forces.

Prince Sultan was also responsible for the launch of the Saudi Offset Program under which a foreign company winning a defense contract has to plough back 30 percent of the contract value within the Kingdom leading to the transfer of technology to a local company in a joint venture with the foreign partner, besides training the Saudi manpower.

Thanks to his far-sightedness and vision, a number of Saudi companies have sprung up on the national scene and are manufacturing high quality spare parts required by the defense and aviation industries.

This is in addition to the setting up of training academies where new recruits for the armed forces are put through their paces in the use of defense technology in the air, at sea, and on the ground. No wonder, the Saudi Armed Forces had played a stellar role during the second Gulf war against the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, when a Saudi pilot shot down an Iraqi aircraft in an aerial combat, while the armed force distinguished themselves in the Battle of Khafji in the Eastern Province.

But what is not so well known is the humanitarian role that Prince Sultan had played in helping the poor and disadvantaged section of the Saudi population.

One of his charitable trusts, Prince Sultan Charitable Foundation, has constructed 200 low-cost housing units for the poor in Al-Laith in the Makkah province as part of a SR385 million project to supply affordable homes. The goal is to provide 1,246 houses in different parts of the Kingdom.

“We are now furnishing the Al-Laith houses before they are handed over to the beneficiaries,” said Prince Faisal bin Sultan, secretary-general of the foundation.

He said the foundation has completed 80 percent of another housing project in Hail where 50 homes and a 1,000 capacity mosque are under construction.

The Foundation is almost half way through with about 40 percent of another housing project in Tabuk, where it is constructing 250 housing units in nine locations.

Prince Faisal told the Saudi Press Agency that work on these projects was being expedited under the instructions from Crown Prince Sultan, who had accorded top priority to housing projects for the poor.

The housing projects represented the foundation’s contribution to social development, the secretary-general said. “We started the new housing projects in Makkah, Hail and Tabuk on the crown prince’s directives to build 500 homes at a cost of SR197 million.” Construction work for the new housing units is also in full swing in the three provinces simultaneously, according to the prince.

Reflecting Prince Sultan’s multi-dimensional role in the service of humanity was the tribute from Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL), which expressed its deep sorrow over the demise of Prince Sultan. In a statement issued in Makkah, MWL conveyed its condolences to King Abdullah, Second Deputy Premier Prince Naif, members of the royal family and the Saudi people over the death of the crown prince.

The MWL specially highlighted the leadership of Prince Sultan in carrying out humanitarian and charity works within the Kingdom and abroad. “These charity works brought to him the title of “Sultan of Charity” (Sultan Al Khair).

It is worthy to note that a large number of weaker sections of people, including the poor, orphans, widows, and the sick in addition to charity organizations have benefited from the donations and help extended by the prince,” the statement added. He had also personally paid from his pocket for the treatment of poor patients in the Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, regardless of which country they came from.

Prince Sultan was also active on another front, no less important than national defense. He had instituted five international prizes in the field of water conservation and treatment. In fact, the 5th Award of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water was announced by Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, the Chairman of the Prize Council, at the 1st meeting of the Council held in Amman (Jordan) on March 13 this year.

King Abdullah II of Jordan attended the event. One of the awards is the Creativity Prize, which is open to all pioneering and innovative researchers in any water-related field. The work should lead to an original solution which is useful to society and contribute to socio-economic uplift. At the same time, it should be practical, environment-friendly and a cost-effective solution.

The following are the categories of awards in the water sector: 1) The Surface Water Prize – covering every aspect of the study and development of surface water resources; 2) The Groundwater Prize – covering every aspect of the study and development of groundwater resources; 3) The Alternative Water Resources Prize – covering desalination, wastewater treatment, and other non-traditional sources of water; 4) The Water Management & Protection Prize – covering the use, management, and protection of water resources.

On the academic front, Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Program for Distinguished Research Scholarships seeks to attract meritorious graduates from within and outside the Kingdom wishing to engage in applied research through the grant of scholarships in the fields of engineering, computer science, health sciences, and food sciences as well as agriculture.

Prince Sultan had also instituted another scholarship named after him for students, both Saudi and foreign, aspiring to do academic research at King Saud University in areas of interest to the Kingdom.

His ever smiling face reflected his spirit of compassion and generosity for the less fortunate section of the society. His death marks the end of an era.

Everyone has a personal experience or anecdote to describe the extraordinary kindness of Crown Prince Sultan.

Seldom did Prince Sultan appear without an encouraging or affectionate smile on his face. However, Prince Faisal bin Saud bin Muhammad, a close associate of the late crown prince, narrated an incident when his charming smile faded.

It was back in 1979 when Juhaiman Al-Otaibi, the head of a deviant band, outraged the Muslim world by occupying the Grand Mosque, according to a report in Al-Eqtisadiah business daily on Monday.

“Prince Sultan was leading the war of liberation to flush out the deviants from the holy precincts. I call it a war because it was tougher than an ordinary war. Normal warfare machines could not be used there considering the sacredness of the place,” Prince Faisal said.

Prince Sultan stood firm against all odds and his speech to the soldiers stationed inside the Grand Mosque while the terrorists occupied the basement was famous.

“Prince Sultan was directing the war from the Shabra Hotel close to the Grand Mosque. One day a terrorist fired at the prince from the window of his suite. The prince was not hurt and the bullet landed on the wall behind him. A stunned aide started yelling. The prince grabbed the aide and ordered him to shut his mouth. He warned him in the sternest tone: 'I will not spare you if this news ever goes out of this room,” Prince Faisal said.

The event also demonstrated the crown prince's courage and wisdom especially in that delicate moment. “He did not want to undermine the morale of soldiers by spreading the news that an enemy sniper had sneaked into the prince's suite.

He continued sleeping in the same room until the end of the campaign without anybody knowing about the sniper attack,” Prince Faisal added.

The crown prince was kind and well disposed to all, including his personal staff. Prince Faisal narrated another incident in which the crown prince even covered for a gross lapse on the part of one of his staff members.

“Once Prince Sultan was walking with King Fahd after a Royal Court meeting. They walked discussing some state affairs until they reached the king's car. The king invited the prince to join him in the car so that they could continue their discussions,” Prince Faisal said.

The discussions between the two leaders continued until the car reached Prince Turki Road and the king invited the prince to his palace. The prince excused himself saying that he planned to visit a patient in King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Prince Faisal added.

“Prince Sultan got down on the Prince Turki Road and told the king's retinue to proceed. The prince was surprised not to see his car and staff following behind. He was under the impression that his aides were following him when in fact they were waiting for him at the Royal Court unaware of the fact that he was accompanying the king. He walked down the sidewalk hoping that they would turn up any moment. But no one appeared. Then the prince waved down a Datsun pickup passing by and requested the driver for a lift. The driver agreed. After the driver started the vehicle he had a closer look at his fellow passenger. He was aghast when he learned that the second deputy premier was sitting beside him. The prince allayed his fears saying, 'Don't be afraid son, please drop me at the specialist hospital'.”

The prince visited the patient and then contacted his aides to inform them of his whereabouts, said Prince Faisal.

“That could probably be one of the most embarrassing and difficult situations in the prince's life. However, he was not angry at his driver or aides, but blamed himself for not telling them that he was with the king,” Prince Faisal said.

As a close associate of the crown prince, Prince Faisal had a deep understanding of his extraordinary personality.

According to Prince Faisal, the crown prince never compromised on justice and fairness. The prince recounted an incident to which he was a witness.

It was when Prince Sultan was discharging the duties of the king, who was vacationing, as then Crown Prince Abdullah was on a foreign tour. “I saw broad smile on Prince Sultan's face. He was reading a newspaper and I was sitting close to him. He said, 'This is a cable sent to the king by a man in Delam near Al-Kharj complaining about me after one of my undersecretaries grabbed his property',” Prince Faisal said.

“Prince Sultan forwarded the cable to Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman with a note saying the undersecretary should be put on trial and the Sharia law applied 'whether for us or against us',” Prince Faisal said, adding that in his capacity as the acting king, Prince Sultan could have ignored the complaint.

Prince Faisal recounted an incident affirming Prince Sultan's political insight when he was in the United States for knee surgery. It was the time the US and the Kingdom had some disagreement over the Saudi deal for the purchase of Chinese missiles.

The Kingdom refused to comply with the US demand to cancel the deal, which was apparently made under Israeli pressure. In a visit to the prince, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage demanded that the US inspectors should be allowed to examine the missiles to ensure that they were not unconventional weapons.

Prince Sultan agreed to Armitage's demand in apparent contravention of the stated Saudi policy. Prince Sultan, however, added that Saudi Arabia would consent to the US demand under one condition — the inspection team should consist of Israeli and Saudi inspectors apart from US inspectors and that the inspectors could verify the Chinese missiles only after visiting Israel to make sure that its arsenal did not have any unconventional warheads.

The US official replied that Israel would not allow any inspection of its weapons.

Then the prince asked the US official how his country could demand inspection of Saudi weapons that the Kingdom had bought with its own money when Israel had refused inspection of its arms which it had bought with US money and support.

This is just one of the countless instances when the prince showed his political acumen.