Great brotherly Islamic country Saudi Arabia has stood with Pakistan all along these years in difficult times, natural calamities, floods and other hours of dire need. Saudi Arabia has done this yet again now by agreeing quite willingly to a package to ease Pakistan’s fiscal pain and overcome the mounting negative impact in the balance of payments as well as improve the dwindling foreign exchange reserves considerably. More importantly, the Saudi Arabia bailout package is without strings, conditions and do this and that like international financial institution.

All this was the productive and positive outcome of the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia and meetings there with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and other Saudi officials. This was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s second visit to Saudi Arabia in less than a month which proved quite successful and productive.

Almost all details about the Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) and understandings reached during the visit of the Prime Minister and Saudi leadership have already been made public. As a follow up of all these are quite substantial and welcome developments, a high-powered Saudi delegation is coming to Pakistan in next few days to give final touches and set the pace for inflow of much-needed Saudi assistance. There is no harm to talk a bit more about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s successful and result-oriented visit to Saudi Arabia. The purpose is to remind everyone that things are going to improve in due course of time with continued blessings of Almighty Allah and every Pakistani working hard day and night for himself/herself as well as for the nation and the country.

According to the bailout package, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed to place substantial deposits of 3 billion dollars as the balance of payments support, about 3 billion dollars oil supplies for three years each on deferred payment. The Saudi state has also reaffirmed its willingness for establishing an oil refinery in Pakistan besides reiterating interest in developing mineral resources of the country and also accepted a request from the visiting Prime Minister to reduce visa fee for Pakistani workers. If the oil supplies on deferred payment at Islamabad’s urgent request of 3 billion dollars annually for three years is also taken into consideration, then the bailout package works out to be hefty 12 billion dollars.

Besides holding important meetings with King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman during which matters of bilateral interest figured mainly, Prime Minister Imran Khan also addressed the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Conference at which he duly highlighted some of the significant challenges that his government is facing. At the same time, he also elaborated on the plans of his team to tackle these daunting and uphill tasks squarely, boldly and courageously with the active cooperation and support of the people of Pakistan.

The Saudi bailout package will greatly help Pakistan to minimise its unavoidable impending approach to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to a great extent. The package will prove helpful in bringing the level down to around 6 billion dollars from earlier reports of urgently needing 12 to 16 billion dollars assistance to pay off the previous loans timely and averting any threat for defaulting in this regard.

The Prime minister also hinted at also being in contacts for seeking financial assistance from other friendly countries.

This was Prime Minister Imran Khan’s second visit to Saudi Arabia which was marked by warmth, sincerity and brotherhood and has also significantly contributed in thawing the bilateral relations which remained a little strained for the last five years or so.

Needless to mention here that Saudi bailout package will, directly and indirectly, supplement investment and assistance which is flowing into Pakistan from time-tested, all-weather friend China under the overall umbrella of great game changer China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during the last couple of years in all fairness. Pakistan has already invited Saudi Arabia to become a partner in CPEC and Chinese leadership at the appropriate level has made it amply clear that Beijing has no objection to this development.

Within the days of the successful visit to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Imran Khan is all set to pay his first four-day visit to China from November 2, 2018. The Prime Minister has since indicated that he will be bringing financial assistance as well as technology from China following his upcoming visit there and impending talks with the top Chinese leadership. The Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan Yao Jing also assured Pakistan of China’ s determination to aid Pakistan in these hard times. He states, “ We understand Pakistan is faced with challenges in the economic and fiscal sector and as a friend China will extend to it whatever support and assistance are required”.

All this surely and certainly augurs well for Pakistan and its people who have embarked upon a journey for positive change of the decades-old mindset, progress and prosperity. One can only wish good luck to Prime Minister Imran Khan in overcoming this gigantic task of grave economic challenges. As a cricketer, he was known to keep on fighting till the last ball of the match against the opponents. He still retains that fighting spirit which he has demonstrated amply many times on different occasions and in his addresses to the nation during his so far short period in the corridors of powers as the Prime Minister and he is bound to succeed with continued blessings of Almighty Allah, in all fairness, please. Everyone should seriously and sincerely support him if he is going positively in the right direction forward and also do criticise him objectively if he takes a wrong step anywhere. There should be no leg pulling as such, and democracy should not prevail but more importantly be promoted and strengthened by all.

 

The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired

Deputy Controller (News) Radio

Pakistan, Islamabad.

 zahidriffat@gmail.com