News Analysis |
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary has confirmed that Prime Minister Imran Khan will be travelling to Saudi Arabia to attend the Future Investment Initiative. FII is a broad spectrum investment conference which aims to bring trillions of dollars in the form of direct investment to the tech city of Saudi Arabia, the brainchild of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman directing the oil-based Saudi economy toward technological innovation.
“Last year, $22 trillion investment commitments were made at the Riyadh investment conference and this year there are expectations for $23 trillion investment commitments,” said Chaudhry, hoping that Pakistan would also succeed in winning commitments from foreign investors. The Future Investment Initiative Conference is jeopardized by the horrendous killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The government, despite putting a formal request for a bailout at IMF last week, seems reluctant and wants to avoid the IMF option altogether if possible.
Mr. Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to attain the necessary documents so that he could marry her Turkish fiancé but never came out. Turkish authorities believe that he has been decapitated inside the consulate premises and body subsequently moved out by the 15 member hit squad especially sent from Saudi Arabia to carry out the job.
Saudi Arabia has strongly denied these allegations stating that the country is itself curious to know the whereabouts of the missing journalist. The increasingly strengthening notion of the state logistics being used to carry out the gruesome crime, United States, UK, France, and other western countries have decided to pull out of the investment conference.
Saudi Aid but at what Cost?
The news of Saudi aid, which was later converted to billion dollar investment in the form of an oil refinery in Gawadar, has been circulating since Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to the Kingdom several weeks ago. It was followed by a visit of a Saudi delegation to Pakistan in order to discuss the potential investment but no substantial breakthrough has been achieved so far.
The government, despite putting a formal request for a bailout at IMF last week, seems reluctant and wants to avoid the IMF option altogether if possible. For the same objective, the Imran Khan led government in eyeing for up to $6 billion dollar aid coming from Saudi Arabia and China which would at least provide the finance ministry with a strong base to discuss the terms of the loan with the IMF.
There is a lot at stake for the U.S which is preventing the all-out substantial response against the Kingdom.
At a time when the countries and multinational corporations are avoiding the investment conference in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s decision to be a part of it speaks volume about the desperation the incumbent government is feeling because of the fragile economic condition. If the news of the State of Saudi Arabia being involved in the ghastly murder of the journalist later proves to be true, it is going to be a diplomatic nightmare for Pakistan.
So far none of the government ministers has been questioned by any journalist on these lines which would have explained how the government is going to tackle the confounding issue. But indirectly the presence of the head of state, the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the conference which has been boycotted altogether as the protest for the unacceptable act, is not going to play well.
Could attend the FII cost Pakistan the IMF bailout?
Even after the unfolding to events and elapsing of several days without any positive news about the Khashoggi’s state, the U.S President is reluctant to state anything clearly about the U.S discourse. There is a lot at stake for the U.S which is preventing the all-out substantial response against the Kingdom. But talking to media, Donald Trump said that the actions will be “severe”.
It could then eventually turn from a PR nightmare for Pakistan to a full-fledged blow to the economy.
Pakistan has reached out to IMF for a bailout package and the U.S has responded that it will review the request and the extent to which Chinese loans in the CPEC would affect Pakistan before deciding the fate of the request. If the United States goes on to put the economic sanctions against Saudi Arabia for carrying out the murder of Saudi Journalist, there is a probability that Pakistan will be asked to clearly state where does it stand vis-à-vis Khashoggi fiasco.
Apart from Chinese loans, the stance on the matter could also become the part of the equation which the U.S will use to decide the grant requested from IMF. It could then eventually turn from a PR nightmare for Pakistan to a full-fledged blow to the economy.
Read more: What if the IMF says NO to Pakistan?
PTI government should put forward its clear stance regarding the whole issue to avoid the confusion later on. If it deems that the cooperation with Saudi Arabia is worth more than the moral stand, then it should learn from Russian President Vladimir Putin who wants to wait for conclusive evidence to pin Saudi Arabia, which is almost impossible to find.