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Pakistan “desperate” for loans, says prime minister Imran Khan

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Imran Khan speaks during a news conference at Saudi investment summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia October 23, 2018 in this still image taken from a video.  (Saudi TV/Reuters TV/via REUTERS)

Pakistan is seeking loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and friendly countries to reservice debt and shores up its economy, prime minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday (23).

“What we are hoping is that we do a bit of both, get a loan from IMF and other loans from friendly governments,” Khan told an audience at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh.

Islamabad has already asked the IMF to open negotiations for the country’s second potential bailout in five years.

Khan, who took office in July, has also been seeking alternatives to the tough conditions the IMF is likely to impose for loans.

Khan is in Saudi Arabia for the second time this month seeking to shore up financial aid as the country reels from a looming balance of payments crisis.

“One thing Pakistan needs more than any other country right now is peace and security,” Khan said on Tuesday.

Imran said he had tried to extend a hand of peace to India, had not received a response, but hoped to resume efforts to improve ties with India after the national elections.

In September, India called off the meeting between the nuclear-armed neighbours’ foreign ministers, planned for the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly the same month.

The foreign ministry in New Delhi said at the time its decision was to protest against the killing of Indian security personnel in Kashmir and a Pakistani postage stamp that it said was “glorifying” an anti-India separatist.

Pakistan said India was just looking for excuses to avoid holding talks before next year’s national elections.

Imran said the country also needs two oil refineries to meet demand, and it was talking to Saudi investors about the projects. Khan said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was organising a delegation of Saudi businessmen to invest in Pakistan.

The conference has been boycotted by other leaders over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khan told an interviewer before leaving he was concerned at Khashoggi’s death but could not skip the conference because “we’re desperate” for possible Saudi loans to shore up Pakistan’s economy.

“The reason I feel I have to avail myself of this opportunity is that in a country of 210 million people right now we have the worst debt crisis in our history,” he was quoted as saying.

“Unless we get loans from friendly countries or the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we actually won’t have in another two or three months enough foreign exchange to service our debts or to pay for our imports. So we’re desperate at the moment.”