Pak­istani PM Vis­its China as Fis­cal Cri­sis Looms

The Miracle - - National & Int -

Pak­istan’s new prime min­is­ter, Im­ran Khan, is in China on a four-day visit, his first trip to the coun­try since tak­ing of­fice in mid-Au­gust. The visit comes as the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment strug­gles with a fi­nan­cial cri­sis and as it looks to for­eign coun­tries for aid, while ne­go­ti­at­ing a bailout with the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund. On Fri­day, Khan met with China’s pres­i­dent, Xi Jin­ping, and told him that his coun­try is go­ing through a “very dif­fi­cult” eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion. Nei­ther Xi nor Khan said any­thing about pos­si­ble aid to Pak­istan in front of re­porters, but China’s leader did talk about his com­mit­ment to China-Pak­istan ties and what he called their “all-weather strate­gic part­ner­ship.” Pak­istan has dealt with the ques­tion of bailouts be­fore, but the sit­u­a­tion is dra­mat­i­cally more com­plex this time as it seeks an $8 bil­lion bailout from the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund. Ques­tions are grow­ing about the coun­try’s abil­ity to pay back loans con­nected to China’s mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture and trade plan known as the Belt and Road. One of the ini­tia­tives’ big­gest projects is the $60 bil­lion China-Pak­istan Eco­nomic Cor­ri­dor (CPEC). At the same time, how­ever, Wash­ing­ton has stressed that the U.S.-backed IMF should not pro­vide Is­lam­abad with funds to pay back loans to China. A for­mer cricket star and op­po­si­tion politi­cian, Khan has raised ques­tions about the ben­e­fits CPEC brings to Pak­istan. Khan’s PTI party, an acro­nym for its name in the Urdu lan­guage, has said the project is too heavy on in­fra­struc­ture, has too many projects in In­dia’s Pun­jab state and too much cor­rup­tion. A re­view that the new ad­min­is­tra­tion has un­der­taken has so far has turned up no ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and Khan has soft­ened his crit­i­cism some, but the visit may force Is­lam­abad to choose be­tween CPEC and the IMF. Dur­ing his meet­ing with Xi on Fri­day, the prime min­is­ter voiced con­fi­dence in the belt and road project, and what he called the Chi­nese pres­i­dent’s vi­sion of con­nec­tiv­ity.

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