Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia Tuesday (18) on his first foreign visit since coming to power, with speculation swirling that he may be seeking economic assistance from the oil-rich ally.
The two-day trip began exactly one month after Khan assumed office, with Pakistan possibly seeking billions of dollars in assistance from allies as it seeks to avert a balance-of-payments crisis.
Khan, who was accompanied by finance minister Asad Umar and foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was set to meet Saudi King Salman in the western city of Jeddah, local officials said.
“A state banquet will be hosted by King Salman at the Royal Court,” the Saudi information ministry’s Centre for International Communications said in a statement.
“Khan will (also) meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi-Pakistani talks will touch on key bilateral, regional and international matters.”
Former cricket great Khan and his cabinet face challenges including a faltering economy, militant extremism, water shortages and a rapidly growing population.
The most pressing is a looming balance-of-payments crisis, with analysts predicting Pakistan will have to go to the International Monetary Fund for a fresh bailout.
The IMF has bailed Pakistan out repeatedly since the late 1980s. The last time was in 2013, when Islamabad got a $6.6 billion loan to tackle a similar crisis.
Pakistani media has speculated that Khan is eyeing Saudi Arabia and China to provide loans to rescue Islamabad from the economic crisis and prevent it from falling back on the IMF.