Amid economic meltdown, Kakar plans trip to Saudi Arabia

PM Kakar

ISLAMABAD:  Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar is set to embark on his inaugural visit to Saudi Arabia next month, amidst a severe economic crisis. The aim of this visit to the oil-rich kingdom is to promote a strategy for revitalizing Pakistan’s faltering economy through foreign investment.

Sources within the Foreign Office have informed The Express Tribune that the prime minister will undertake foreign visits to three nations, namely Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Kakar’s first stop will be Kenya, followed by his visit to Saudi Arabia.

During his stay in Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister is scheduled to engage with Saudi leadership, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to insiders familiar with the matter, the primary objective of this visit is to advance a military-led initiative known as the Special Investment Facilitations Council (SIFC). This initiative is designed to infuse the country’s economy with investment from Gulf nations.

The SIFC was established during the closing stages of the PML-N-led coalition government, as part of an army-conceived plan to attract foreign investment. The council’s mission is to tackle Pakistan’s long-standing economic challenges, reducing reliance on international financial institutions and fostering self-sufficiency.

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Central to the success of this plan is Saudi Arabia, which is recognized as a pivotal player. Riyadh has shown keen interest in acquiring stakes in the Reko Diq mines. Additionally, the strategy includes the creation of a $12 billion oil refinery in Gwadar.

The proposal for the establishment of the oil refinery was initially unveiled in February 2019 during Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Pakistan. However, due to diplomatic differences between the two countries, progress on this project stalled. Renewed enthusiasm for the initiative has emerged following the change in government and the recent endeavors to attract foreign investment.

After his Saudi Arabian visit, the interim prime minister’s itinerary will take him to the United States. There, he is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York in September.

Despite his limited mandate, the Foreign Office has recommended Kakar’s participation in the UNGA’s annual session. The caretaker PM aims to present Pakistan’s stance on key regional and global issues. Insiders have indicated that Kakar’s decision to address the UNGA stems from the significance of the event on the international stage. Pakistan seeks to maintain its active engagement, even in the absence of an elected government in Islamabad.

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