Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates from Tuesday at the invitation of the two countries' leaderships.

Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia and UAE will start a new era

By Ashfaq Ahmed, UAE Deputy Editor

Dubai: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is being widely praised for his drastic steps, including the austerity measures he took within one month of coming into power.

His first official visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is even more commendable for it will largely be focused on the financial bailout plan for his country in addition to mending ties that saw a downward trend in recent years due to blunders committed by his predecessors.

Though Imran Khan had announced that he would not take any foreign trips in the first 100 days of his government, his decision to visit Saudi Arabia and the UAE is critical for his country and the region. Though very short, he has wisely included trip to the UAE as well on his way back from Saudi Arabia on September 19. Being a frequent visitor to the UAE to raise funds for his cancer hospital during the last two decades, Iman knows how important it is to take relations with the UAE to the next level.

Imran Khan marks his official visit to Saudi Arabia. Facebook

Close and time-tested friends 

Imran’s drastic steps, including his austerity measures, have already started getting him accolade within a month since he became the prime minister. His trip to Saudi Arabia and the UAE became all the more important because he probably realised that Pakistan cannot do without its close and time-tested friends to come out of economic crisis. Imran’s austerity measures are good but not enough to pay off huge foreign debts and build dams to overcome water and electricity crisis.

Pakistan’s foreign debts have increased to US$95billion. Imran has inherited weak economy, mountain of debt and circular debt, $38 billion trade deficit, current account deficit, $2.522 billion debt servicing due to be paid by November, declining foreign exchange reserves and sick state-owned enterprises causing a loss of US$6 billion (Rs750 billion) annually.

His short entourage, including Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi; Finance Minister Asad Umar and Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, is also indicative of his tour agenda. Khan will use his visit to Saudi Arabia to demonstrate Pakistan’s value as an economic partner for Riyadh. He is likely to pursue the similar agenda in the UAE.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. AP/PTI

A well-placed source in Islamabad told Gulf News that country’s top civil and military leaders last week finalised strategy for the prime minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This is the first time that the civilian and the military leadership are on one page when it comes to planning for foreign policy. The high-level huddle was chaired by the Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi; Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar.

The Pakistani PM is expected to use his visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to demonstrate his commitment to preserving Islamabad’s traditional special relationship with them.

Pakistani expatriates excited for Imran Khan’s UAE visit

By Falah Gulzar, Trainee Social Media Journalist

Dubai: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to visit the UAE and Pakistani expatriates are excited.

Many of them voiced the issues they would like discussed between the two nations, while others expressed their desire to meet the leader.

It will be the prime minister's first foreign visit since he took office in August. AFP

Nadeem Ahmad, an UAE-born Pakistani expatriate said that bilateral relations and business tie-ups should be discussed between Khan and UAE leaders.

Upon hearing the news of the visit, Ahmad said that he was surprised and “ready to welcome the [Pakistani] Prime Minister. Both countries can boost together, especially since they have a long history of relations and togetherness.” The 37-year-old said.

He also said that Pakistan has had strong relations with Arab nations across the region and this will further strengthen those.

Talking about UAE-based Pakistanis, Ahmad said that Imran Khan needs to cater to their issues and possibly help them with financial issues.

Discussing immigration, he said: “The procedures for Pakistanis coming to the UAE should be made even easier so that they can enjoy their lives here, should also be discussed. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have a large number of Pakistani expatriates and they bring a lot of foreign exchange to Pakistan.” So, discussing their issues is key, the site supervisor added.

As someone who grew up in the UAE, dealing with embassies and consulates of Pakistan in the country, Ahmad requested Khan to improve their condition and build better ones.  “Whenever I visit Pakistan’s embassy, I see that embassies of other nations are properly built, when you see ours, it’s an old villa turned into an office,” he said.

Fatima Suhail, a Pakistani born in the UAE, believes that the officials should talk about “developing a stronger bond between Pakistan and the UAE. Not just politically but in terms of trade and the welfare of people.”

“The UAE has always been very kind towards Pakistan and Pakistan is going through financial difficulties right now. It would be good if the UAE could help and that’s one big reason to have this visit,” the Sharjah resident added.

The politician’s arrival will “promote Pakistan in a better light,” she said. “Pakistan is my home and so is the UAE. It’s great to see a strong bond between them.”

The 29-year-old also believes that issues regarding the community need to be discussed. “Ultimately it’s for the people and it should come down to the betterment of the population of the countries,” she said.

Suhail also said that Khan’s visit can help another major issue in Pakistan – the water crisis. “He [Khan] doesn’t only want support from his people but also from other countries and leaders as well,” she said.

Moreover, expressing excitement about his visit, Suhail said that if she gets the chance to, she would “definitely” go to see him. “I’d be the happiest person. He’s not just a politician, he’s a humble person,” she said.

Mohammad Waqas, a system analyst based in Abu Dhabi has similar sentiments towards the upcoming visit.

He said that Khan’s visit is “a very positive decision”, and requested that the officials speak about cooperation between the states.

The 40-year-old said that security in the region, increasing business opportunities in both the countries and community-related issues should also be discussed.

“I believe that he is equipped to discuss expatriate problems around the world and he will do so when he arrives in the UAE as well,” he said.

Upon the announcement of Khan’s visit, ‘Imran Khan’ was one of the biggest trends on social media platforms in the UAE, specifically Twitter with over 20,000 tweets posted today.

While most simply shared the news, some, like Twitter user, @mohamed_newsman, hoped to see him at the upcoming Asia Cup cricket match: “Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan will be in the UAE… as part of his first official state visit since taking office. I wouldn’t bet against him making a surprise appearance at the India-Pakistan match in Dubai!”

Who is Imran Khan?

A Pakistani politician and former Cricket champion. He was born on October 5, 1952; he is 65 years old.

Why is Imran Khan so popular?

File Picture: Then Pakistani Cricketer Imran Khan in action. Javed Nawab/Gulf News archives

Khan is loved by millions across cricket-obsessed Pakistan. He became one of the world's greatest all-rounders - a fearsome fast bowler and dangerous batsman - whose finest hour came at the 1992 World Cup, where at the age of 39 he led an inexperienced team to the title. Khan acquired a reputation as a playboy during his international cricket career.

What was his childhood like?

Khan was born in Lahore into an affluent family with origins in the Pashtun northwest. He was educated at Pakistan's prestigious Aitchison College, then went to boarding school in England and onwards to Oxford University.

Imran Khan's previous marriages 

Khan married British socialite Jemima Khan in 1995 and had two sons with her before their divorce in 2004. The split was attributed to the difficulties she faced in Pakistan, where she was hounded for her family's Jewish ancestry, and to his obsession with politics.

Imran Khan with Jemima Khan

He then married Reham Khan, host of a local TV talk show and a BBC weather segment. They then divorced suddenly in October 2015, just ten months after they wed. She was widely criticised after appearing at public meetings of PTI, with opponents accusing her of seeking to boost her own profile through her husband's fame.

File photo: Imran Khan (L) and Reham Khan pose for a photograph during their wedding ceremony at his house in Islamabad. AFP

His life as a politician

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan, speaks to the nation in his first televised address in Islamabad, on August 19, 2018. Reuters

Khan has always spoken of his aspirations of becoming Pakistan's prime minister, telling AFP in February that this is PTI's "biggest chance" at seizing power. He has also been a vocal critic of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Khan won the elections and was sworn in on August 18 as Pakistan’s Prime Minister and has been in the media limelight for his strong announcements on austerity measures, refugee crises and other issues.

His marriage to Bushra Maneka

Rumours about Khan's third marriage started circulating in January. The nuptials in February ended rumours that had been swirling for months about a possible marriage. As reported by PTI, Khan had started visiting Bushra Maneka (his third and current wife) since last year to seek spiritual advice. Also reported as being a ‘faith healer’, Maneka is a devoted follower of Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, something she shares with Imran Khan. It is widely accepted that this is the common factor that ultimately led to her relationship with Imran Khan and his subsequent proposal.             

Imran Khan and Bushra Maneka. Twitter

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party

Imran Khan displays a copy of his party manifesto. AFP

Imran Khan founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in 1996, which is now the largest political party in the country.

He went on to win a seat in the Pakistani general election, 2002. During the presidency of Asif Ali Zardari, Khan's popularity peaked amid discontent with the government’s domestic and foreign policy.

Imran Khan’s leadership

The party, in Khan’s leadership, promised to create an independent, self-reliant, discrimination-free Pakistan – and one that’s free from debt, dependency and discord.