PM's China visit

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan opted to travel to China over stay­ing in Pak­istan as vi­o­lent pro­test­ers took to the streets across this coun­try, PTI of­fi­cials were right in de­fend­ing the for­eign trip when they con­tended that the eco­nomic cri­sis is much big­ger than Asia Bibi ac­quit­tal as coun­try's fi­nances are in dire of ur­gent as­sis­tance.

The log­i­cal im­pli­ca­tion was that Prime Min­is­ter was re­quired to go to China to se­cure quick money, loans, as­sis­tance and in­vest­ments to shore up the Pak­istani econ­omy and state fi­nances. It is a norm in diplo­macy that high- level meet­ings take place af­ter the de­tails are al­ready agreed to by other of­fi­cials and the top gov­ern­ment func­tionar­ies meet to sign ac­cords in a cer­e­mo­nial man­ner.

A se­nior Chi­nese of­fi­cial, Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Kong Xuanyou pledged that China has in prin­ci­ple de­cided to help Pak­istan tide over its cur­rent eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties and for the spe­cific mea­sures, the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties of the two sides will have de­tailed dis­cus­sions.

A joint state­ment mark­ing the for­mal end of Prime Min­is­ter Khan's trip to China ap­peared to con­firm what was stated a day be­fore by Vice For­eign Min­is­ter Kong. In the joint state­ment, there is no as­sis­tance pack­age an­nounced, just diplo­matic lan­guage reaf­firm­ing the deep strate­gic ties be­tween China and Pak­istan. At least two points need to be made here. First, if a for­mal as­sis­tance pack­age had not been al­ready agreed to, what was the ur­gency for Mr Khan to leave Pak­istan in the midst of a na­tional cri­sis? Surely, Mr Khan was not go­ing to ne­go­ti­ate in per­son with se­nior Chi­nese of­fi­cials - the Chi­nese of­fi­cials have them­selves pointed to de­tailed ne­go­ti­a­tions need­ing to take place be­tween the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties of the coun­tries. Sec­ond, and more im­por­tantly, given that it is an on­go­ing is­sue, why have the "de­tailed dis­cus­sions" yet to take place? It is pos­si­ble that China is driv­ing a hard bar­gain, but that would not be un­ex­pected. How­ever, did the Pak­istani side pre­pare for hard ne­go­ti­a­tions? Or have the PTI gov­ern­ment's eco­nomic man­agers once again shown their in­ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­pected that a res­cue pack­age will be as­sem­bled be­cause of Pak­istan's geopo­lit­i­cal im­por­tance or per­haps Prime Min­is­ter Khan's po­lit­i­cal stand­ing?

As Mr Khan comes home empty- handed, he will re­turn to a coun­try re­cov­er­ing from days of protests and yet an­other state ca­pit­u­la­tion to vi­o­lent re­li­gious ex­trem­ists. The chal­lenges are in­creas­ing, but the gov­ern­ment's ca­pac­ity to ad­dress these chal­lenges does not ap­pear to be in­creas­ing quickly enough. The three- month mark for Prime Min­is­ter Khan and his PTI gov­ern­ment are fast ap­proach­ing. Mr Khan was right in de­mand­ing time to ad­just to the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of high of­fice. But the coun­try needs the PTI to learn faster than it ap­pears ca­pa­ble or will­ing to.

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