Days after Umar's departure from cabinet, Chinese official praises PTI leader as 'man of integrity'

Updated April 22, 2019

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Lijian Zhao shares clip of Asad Umar's interview in which he chastised Western leaders for criticising Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and China. —Reuters/File
Lijian Zhao shares clip of Asad Umar's interview in which he chastised Western leaders for criticising Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and China. —Reuters/File

Days after Asad Umar's departure as finance minister, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan Lijian Zhao praised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf stalwart on Twitter as a "man of integrity" who "dares to speak the truth".

Zhao shared a clip of an interview Umar gave to Stephen Sackur on BBC News' programme Hard Talk in December last year, in which the then finance minister had chastised Western leaders for criticising Pakistan's relationship with Saudi Arabia and China.

In response to a question regarding the Trump administration's reservations over a bailout package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Pakistan, Umar had suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "should worry about his China debt problem". Pompeo had earlier warned that the US will not allow the Fund to lend Pakistan money which may be used to repay debts to China.

"USA is the largest debtor in the world to China; they owe $1.3 trillion [to China]," Umar had told Sackur. "What [does] Pakistan owe to China? Less than 10 per cent of Pakistan's foreign debt is owned by the Chinese, 90 per cent is non-Chinese."

He had further questioned the "sudden" interest in Pakistan's lenders, saying that the question had never been raised in the past even though the country had sought IMF's assistance 12 times in the past 30 years.

Umar, in response to Lijian's praise, thanked the ambassador and lauded China for proving wrong its critics that had long predicted the failure of its economic model.

"For years we have heard them say that the Chinese model was wrong and bound to fail. We are proud that China has proven them wrong," Umar tweeted.

"About time we all stood up for the truth instead of letting the colonial mindset lecture to us," he added.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mr Lijian Zhao is the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan. In fact, Mr Yao Jing is the Chinese Ambassador and Mr Lijian Zhao is the Deputy Chief of Mission. The error is regretted.