ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan is expecting a Saudi Arabia-like package from China as he prepares to fly to Beijing on November 2 for a three-day visit.

This will be the first official visit of the Prime Minister to China after assuming office in August 2018. He will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign ministry said.

The ministry said Imran Khan had received the invitation for the visit by the Chinese leadership. “The visit signifies the closeness and traditional warmth which characterizes Pakistan-China all weather strategic cooperative partnership,” added the foreign ministry statement.

This week Pakistan took a big step forward to avert the International Monetary Fund program as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agreed to provide $ 3 billion for one year as balance of payment support and a further one-year deferred payment facility for oil payments up to $ 3 billion.

“Saudi Arabia will place a deposit of $3 billion for a period of one year as balance of payment support. It was also agreed that a one year deferred payment facility for import of oil, up to $3 billion, will be provided by Saudi Arabia. This arrangement will be in place for three years, which will be reviewed thereafter,” said the foreign ministry statement, citing the Prime Minister’s meetings with the Saudi Royals. The impact of the Saudi supported was calculated at $12 billion.

Last night, PM Khan addressed the nation over the television and radio saying the assistance from Saudi Arabia will help ease the financial pressure on Pakistan and also bring government in a position not to burden people with more tough economic measures. He said: “We have got an amazing package from Saudi Arabia... which has taken off the burden.”

He added: “If we had gone to IMF (International Monetary Fund) directly, we’d have to borrow more money and that would have meant tougher conditions which would further burden salaried class and poor segments of society. But now we are in a better position.”

The Prime Minister asked the people not to worry as they would steer the country out of the economic crisis as he hinted at securing similar economic assistance from ‘two more’ friendly countries for which negotiations were in progress. He said, “I will get back to you with more good news soon.”

The other friendly country is Malaysia where the PM is expected to fly before China. He has already discussed economic issues with Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad over the telephone. The foreign ministry said Prime Minister Khan will hold meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. “The two sides will review the entire range of bilateral relations which have enjoyed a long history of mutual trust and mutual support. The two sides will also sign several Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding of Cooperation in diverse fields,” it said.

After his visit to Beijing, the Prime Minister will visit Shanghai to participate in First China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where Pakistan is exhibiting a wide range of export products. Prime Minister will be a keynote speaker at the inauguration of the Expo.

On the sidelines of Shanghai Forum, Prime Minister will hold meetings with other world leaders. He will also hold meetings with leaders of Chinese financial and corporate sector.

The traditionally close, cooperative and friendly ties between Pakistan and China are based on shared principles and mutual interests entailing close cooperation in diverse fields. Both the countries maintain close and regular strategic communication for promotion of regional peace and stability and economic cooperation, said the statement.

Economic and industrial cooperation between Pakistan and China expanded significantly after the establishment of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it said.

Prime Minister’s visit is expected to provide further impetus to enhancing the existing strategic ties between Pakistan and China and break new grounds for broadening the bilateral partnership, said the foreign ministry.  Last week, Prime Minister Khan said that Pakistan may skip loan from the IMF as the government was consulting some friendly countries to come out of the economic crises. The premier said the friendly countries were being consulted for cooperation.

“Their response is positive. I am quite hopeful that we will not have to approach the IMF for our economic needs,” he said.

An IMF team is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan on November 7 to negotiate the programme, likely to cover a period of three years. The Institute of International Finance in its latest report said a potential IMF programme for Pakistan could be valued at $15 billion. The IIF expects an agreement on a three-year IMF programme of $15 billion by end of this year.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, however, says the IMF would be asked for a $12 billion package while another $5 billion would be sought from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. But with the Saudi support, the IMF loan may be reduced or skipped completely, if the PM succeeds in attaining the financial packages from Malaysia and China.

Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf formed the federal government in August, pledging to bring a ‘change’ in its election campaign. There has been massive criticism against the government after Imran Khan and Asad Umar announced to borrow money from the international financial institutions to improve the country’s economy. Opposition parties refer to the PTI’s promises in the election campaign that borrowing money was against the integrity of the nation.