PM Imran Khan crucial visit in solidarity with Saudi Arabia over isolation
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s foreign ministry announced Friday that Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend a Saudi Arabian investment conference, despite a string of cancellations from leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The decision comes a day after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior ministers from Europe announced plans to skip the conference.
The move by the White House intensified the kingdom's mounting isolation amid an uproar over the mysterious disappearance of Khashoggi after he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Khan's visit comes as Pakistan continues to court “friendly” nations in search of billions of dollars to shore up its deteriorating finances as it faces a balance of payment crisis and upcoming talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a potential bailout.
Khan’s participation in the conference "signifies our solidarity with the kingdom in its efforts to become an emerging hub of international business and investment,” the foreign ministry said in the statement.
“The conference provides an opportunity to interact with important business leaders who are interested in investing in Pakistan."
The conference is being touted as a high-powered showcase for the economic reforms of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- who has been widely accused of having links to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Pakistan briefly weighed in on the incident earlier this month, calling on Turkey and Saudi Arabia "to jointly address the matter".
Khan made his maiden foreign visit as premier to Saudi Arabia in September as Islamabad explored alternative avenues to financing before approaching the IMF.
Since taking power in August Khan has sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.
But help has been in short supply and economists' warnings have grown increasingly urgent.
The visit also comes as Pakistan’s central bank warned this week that inflation would likely double in the coming year -- hitting 7.5 percent -- while the country’s growth target rate of 6.2 percent would likely be missed. - APP/AFP