ISLAMABAD  -  Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that his government will not allow anyone to make Pakistan a ‘banana republic.’

Chairing a meeting of the federal cabinet here, PM Khan said that the government was aiming to make a ‘new Pakistan’; not a Pakistan where a small minority could dictate terms.

However, the participants of the meeting told The Nation that the PM wanted to resolve issues with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan protesters through talks unless they compel the government to take action.

Protests erupted across the country after the Supreme Court acquitted Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death over blasphemy allegations.

Prime Minister Khan fully backed the Supreme Court’s decision in the Aasia Bibi case and warned protesters against clashing with the state.

“The Supreme Court verdict was announced. The way a small section reacted to it and the language that they used; I am forced to address you (the nation). The decision of the judges is according to the Constitution and Pakistan’s constitution is according to the Quran and Sunnah (practice of Holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him),” he said, referring to Bibi’s acquittal.

He added: “How can a government or a country be run when individuals stand up and call for execution of judges. Only enemies of the state call for execution of judges and rebellion against the army chief.”

The federal cabinet also reviewed the progress made in 100-day plan of the government and decided to bring the progress before public later this week.

Speaking at a news conference after the cabinet meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Federal Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar said that the PM and the ministers discussed the targets set by the government.

Chaudhry said that a committee comprising ministers of interior, information, human rights, and other government members held meetings with Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shehbaz Sharif to discuss the protests by the TLP.

“We briefed them on the situation arising out of sit-in by some religious elements. We informed them about the steps taken by the government to tackle the situation including the address of Prime Minister to the nation. The opposition has assured their full cooperation in this regard,” the information minister said.

Chaudhry said that the cabinet also discussed the Prime Minister’s visit to China which, he said, would strengthen ties with the ‘all-weather’ friend besides focusing on transfer of technology to Pakistan.

The minister said that a meeting of Privatisation Board earlier had decided that privatisation process of Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills will be stopped. “These organisations now will be restructured,” he added.

He said that the meeting decided to privatise SME Bank, First Women Bank, Balloki Power Plant, Haveli Bahadur Shah Plant, Jinnah Convention Centre, Lakhra Coal Mine, Services International Hotel, Lahore, and Marri Petroleum Ltd.

Speaking on the occasion, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar said that there were good expectations from the China visit. “We should have something to tell you when we come back,” he said when asked about the ‘big news’ from Beijing amid reports of an unspecified grant.

Reports said that China planned to provide an unspecified financial ‘grant’ to Pakistan. Earlier, Prime Minister Khan secured more than $6 billion in immediate financial support from Pakistan’s close ally Saudi Arabia during an official visit to Riyadh. The United Arab Emirates is also considering a Saudi-like package.

He said that Pak-China relations spanned over decades and China was a dependable partner of Pakistan. He said that the Prime Minister’s visit is focused on Pakistan’s needs and priorities.

He said that during his visit to China, the PM will meet president Xi Jinping which will be his first meeting with Chinese leadership after taking oath. He will also hold talks with Chinese premier Li Keqiang, he said.

Bakhtyar, who will accompany the PM to China, said that Khan would also meet Chinese businessmen and heads of leading corporations.

He will attend Shanghai Expo as ‘Guest of Honour’ which will provide him with an opportunity to meet the leading businessmen as well as heads of government attending the event.

Bakhtyar said that priorities and future direction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will also be discussed during meetings with Chinese officials.

He said that the government had decided to increase and widen the scope of CPEC in order to reap maximum benefits from this mega project. He said that it had been decided to establish a new joint working group on socio-economic development. He said that agriculture, livestock, value-added chain and other areas were being explored for collaboration.

The minister said that Chinese economy was worth $12.50 trillion. “They import products of $1,800 billion from the world. If Pakistan succeeds in getting the share of one percent import of China, this will be a huge plus for Pakistan,” he maintained.

Bakhtyar said that Pakistan’s priorities also included poverty reduction and poverty alleviation, adding that talks would be held in these areas as well. China has vast experience in poverty-reduction policies and has lifted millions of people from the trap of poverty, the minister said. The potential of Gwadar will be fully harnessed in order to serve it as a gateway for marine trade as well as getting all benefits of blue economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, government officials said that Pakistan would give a guarantee to Beijing that the ongoing infrastructure and energy projects under the CPEC would continue, and Islamabad would ensure its smooth and timely completion. In return, Imran Khan would expect a financial support package.

The ‘iron brothers’ – as Pakistan and China call themselves – have intensified contacts after the reported misunderstanding on the CPEC as the Financial Times ‘misquoted’ Adviser Razzak Dawood.

Quoting Dawood, the Financial Times had reported that Pakistan was planning to review or renegotiate agreements reached under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.