ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Riyadh on October 23 on the special invitation of King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz to participate in the “Future Investment Initiative” conference and to hold talks with the Saudi leaders.

The prime minister will also call on King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz and meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. “Matters of mutual interest will be discussed,” said a foreign ministry statement on Friday.

Officials told The Nation that the PM will discuss country’s economic crisis with the Saudi leaders. “There have been talks with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s financial troubles will definitely be discussed,” said one official.

The Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference will be held from October 23-25. Termed “Davos in the desert”, it will host leading businesspersons, investors, corporate giants, representatives of hi-tech industry and major media outlets at one platform, said the foreign ministry statement.

The first FII was held last year, with participation of 3,800 people from 90 countries. This year’s conference is likely to attract lesser participation due to a string of cancellations from Western policymakers and corporate chiefs over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The United States and its European allies are putting immense pressure on the Kingdom, taking advantage of the issue of disappearance of Khashoggi, who was deemed a detractor of the Saudi regime, after he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

Prime Minister Khan’s participation in the conference signifies “our solidarity with the Kingdom in its efforts to become emerging hub of international business and investment,” the foreign ministry statement said.

Islamabad’s decision comes a day after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior ministers from Europe announced plans to skip the conference, as the move by the White House intensified the kingdom's mounting isolation.

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 the journalist’s disappearance.

Pakistan briefly weighed in on the Khashoggi incident earlier this month, calling on Turkey and Saudi Arabia "to jointly address the matter".

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s participation in the first day of the conference is aimed at projecting Pakistan’s economic and investment potential and sharing his vision of the country in the five years to come, Islamabad said.

The conference provides an opportunity to interact with important business leaders who are interested in investing in Pakistan, said the ministry.

IMF and friendly countries

Since taking power in August Imran Khan has sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia to avoid going to the International Monetary Fund for a loan programme.

He made his maiden foreign visit as premier to Saudi Arabia in September. But help has been in short supply and economists' warnings have grown increasingly urgent.

Imran Khan’s second KSA visit comes as country’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.

An IMF team is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on November 7 to negotiate the programme, likely to cover a period of three years. The Institute of International Finance in its latest report said a potential three-year IMF programme for Pakistan could be valued at $15 billion.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, however, says the IMF would be asked for a $12 billion package while another $5 billion would be sought from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had pledged to bring a ‘change’ in its election campaign and its leaders would oppose loans from international lenders saying that they work against the integrity of the nation.

And now that the government has announced it would borrow money from the international financial institutions, there has been massive criticism from opposition and the people at large.

Hope not lost

Prime Minister Imran Khan however said this week the country may skip IMF loan as the government was consulting some friendly countries to come out of the economic crisis.

“Their response is positive. I am quite hopeful that we will not have to approach the IMF for our economic needs,” said Khan, who has promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials and has embarked on a series of austerity measures.

The prime minster assured that people will start receiving good news in a few months in the wake of some harsh decisions as so many things will also be changed.

Yesterday, the prime minister said the nation will come out of the present financial impasse due to its immense talent.

Speaking to a delegation of business community here, he said the country was facing a difficult situation at the moment due to wrong policies and decisions of previous governments.

Khan said the past governments destroyed the national institutions and large public sector organisations are under heavy debts.

The delegation also presented a cheque of over Rs90 million to the prime minister for Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam Fund.



PM to attend KSA moot to show solidarity