KARACHI/MAKKAH/MADINA: Prime Minister Imran Khan performed Umrah a day after his arrival here in Saudi Arabia — his first official visit to the Kingdom after assuming office — and prayed for Pakistan’s prosperity.
The doors to Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine at Mecca’s Grand Mosque were opened especially for the Pakistani premier, who offered nafal prayers at the sacred place.
PM Imran, accompanied by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, and Fawad Chaudhry, the ministers of foreign affairs, finance, and information, respectively, also paid a visit to Roza-e-Rasool (Peace Be upon Him) — the final resting place of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) — in Medina and offered Maghreb prayers there.
Abdul Razak Dawood, the advisor to prime minister on commerce, textile, industry, and production, is also part of the delegation to the Kingdom, where speculation has followed Khan that his trip may be to seek economic assistance from the oil-rich ally.
The prime minister is visiting Saudi Arabia on King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s invitation and is expected to meet both the leader as well as Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, according to a statement released by Pakistan’s Foreign Office.
“A state banquet will be hosted by King Salman at the Royal Court,” the Saudi information ministry’s Centre for International Communications said in a statement.
“Khan will (also) meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi-Pakistani talks will touch on key bilateral, regional, and international matters” and accompanying ministers at the occasion are slated to meet their counterparts to discuss bilateral cooperation.
After meeting the Crown Prince, known colloquially as MbS, the prime minister is expected to meet representatives of the Pakistani diaspora in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier, upon his arrival at the King Abdulaziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal in Jeddah, Khan was received by Mecca Deputy Governor Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud as well as Hasham bin Siddique, the Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
During his meeting with Mecca’s top official, the premier exchanged thoughts on matters of mutual interest between the Kingdom and Pakistan.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Secretary-General Dr Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen is also expected to call on the PM during his visit and, later, after his tour of the Kingdom, Khan is set to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Reaching for ally nation’s helping hand
The two-day trip began exactly one month after Khan assumed office, with Pakistan possibly seeking billions of dollars in assistance from allies as it seeks to avert a balance-of-payments crisis.
The new premier faces various challenges, including a faltering economy, extremism, water shortages, and a rapidly growing population. The most pressing one, however, is a looming balance-of-payments crisis, with analysts predicting Pakistan will have to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a fresh bailout.
Islamabad’s top officials have denied opting for that route though.
The IMF has bailed Pakistan out repeatedly since the late 1980s, with the last time being in 2013 when a $6.6-billion loan was extended to tackle a similar crisis.
Apart from the Kingdom, speculation is rife that Khan would also ask China to provide loans to rescue Pakistan from the economic crisis and prevent it from falling back on the IMF.
Pakistan’s top brass and VIP aircraft
It is interesting to note that Chaudhry had earlier commented on the use of VIP aeroplane, stating that neither would Khan and the ministers go on any trips abroad nor will the premier use VIP aircraft for foreign visits till three months after forming the government.
It is also interesting that Khan previously travelled to Karachi in a VIP aeroplane as well.