ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, beginning the initial leg of his first foreign tour since taking office in August.
The premier was welcomed at Madinah Airport by the Governor of Madinah, Faisal bin Salman, Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Hasham bin Saddique, and other members of the Pakistani consulate.
Khan, accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Adviser for Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, is also scheduled to perform Umrah during his two-day stay in Saudi Arabia.
“The prime minister will call on His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz and hold a bilateral meeting with the crown prince (His Royal Highness Mohammad Bin Salman). The king will also host a state banquet for the prime minister at the Royal Court. Accompanying ministers will also meet their counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation,” reads a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, will also call on the PM during his visit.
Although bilateral relations and the regional security situation are on the agenda of Khan’s visit, a more pertinent, urgent priority will be a possible economic bailout package sought from Saudi Arabia by the new Pakistani Government.
In 2014, six months after Pakistan obtained its last IMF bailout, Saudi Arabia loaned Pakistan $1.5 billion, which the government used to strengthen its currency. Pakistan’s current account deficit increased to 43 percent ($18 billion) in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Analysts, however, told Reuters that a fresh bailout package from the IMF, which would be Pakistan’s 13th since the late 1980s, is inevitable.
While the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Government has been debating several options to plug the hole in Pakistan’s rapidly draining foreign exchange reserves, it is also avidly trying to seek financial assistance from allied countries (including Saudi Arabia, China and the UAE) as opposed to going to the IMF.
Before the visit, Finance Minister Asad Umar said that IMF assistance would remain a “fallback option.”