ISLAMABAD (APP) -Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday said Pakistan's banking sector would be further strengthened and become more competitive, with the entry of foreign banks into the country. Talking to Ahmed Khizer Khan, Chief Executive of Barkley Bank and Mohsin Nathani, bank's country director, he said Pakistan has a highly developed banking sector, which will rapidly grow in view of the inherent strength of country's growing economy. Barkley Bank has been licensed by the State Bank of Pakistan to start its operation in Pakistan soon. The bank officials informed the Prime Minister that Barcleys Bank has started with an investment of US $ 100 million in Pakistan and will make more substantial investment as their operations expand in the country. Prime Minister Gilani welcomed Barclays Bank's entry into Pakistan and expressed the hope that it will extend its operation especially to the country's rural areas where 70 percent of the population lives. He also emphasized the need for catering to the banking requirements of the small and medium size industries, as they form an important part of the industrial sector of the country. The Prime Minister said as part of its financial sector reforms, the government is encouraging consolidation of banking sector through mergers and acquisitions so that stronger banks provide a full range of services and improve the outreach of financial services to a larger segment of population. Ahmed Khizer Khan apprised the Prime Minister of Barcleys emerging market's growth and expansion plans particularly in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. He said that because of investment potential in Pakistan, Barcleys has decided to explore avenues for starting operations in Pakistan. The Prime Minister was informed that Barcleys is a UK-based financial services group with a large international presence in the Europe, USA, Africa and Asia. Ms Hina Rabbani Khar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister was also present in the meeting.