WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan, now in Washington on a three-day official working visit, spent his first day in the US capital, encouraging Pakistani, American and international business leaders to invest in Pakistan.
Although a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday is the most important event of this visit, the prime minister seems equally focused on the efforts to jumpstart the country’s ailing economy.
On Sunday afternoon, he met the World Bank’s new president David Malpass and the acting Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), David Lipton. The World Bank group has assumed a pivotal role in Islamabad’s revival efforts since Pakistan signed a bailout package with the IMF in May.
Pakistan hopes the $6bn package will help rebalance its economy and strengthen its balance of payments position. Pakistan is also seeking foreign direct investment as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects and loan packages from other international partners to further augment its economy.
Pakistan has also hired the services of a leading lobbying firm to ensure effective representation of its interests in the United States.
Relations between the two countries have been turbulent since President Donald Trump took office in 2017 and slapped restrictions for Pakistan’s alleged non-cooperation in efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.
Imran meets World Bank’s president, IMF acting MD
But recently, top US officials publicly acknowledged Pakistan’s help in arranging US-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar, and appreciated the measures it has taken so far to curb terrorism at home.
Apparently, these developments did have an impact on the Trump administration’s approach and led to an invitation to the prime minister for a White House summit meeting with President Trump.
On Saturday, Pakistan signed a contract with Tom Reynolds, a former Republican congressman from New York who represents the firm Holland & Knight. Pakistan hopes the firm will be able to take advantage of the recent positive developments to boost its image.
At a series of meetings on Saturday evening and Sunday, the prime minister invited businessmen and investors to benefit from the economic and business opportunities that Pakistan offers.
According to a post shared by the government’s official Twitter account, the premier invited the businessmen to take advantage of Pakistan’s “strategic location and the connectivity to the broader region”.
The post said that the investors appreciated improved security environment in Pakistan and identified areas of interest that could attract investments. The key sectors they identified included energy and tourism.
The prime minister highlighted the policy framework and conducive environment the government had created for promoting foreign investment. He said the government was also working hard for improving the ease of doing business environment, for reviving industries and for socio-economic development of the country.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Adviser for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari assisted the prime minister in these meetings.
As Prime Minister Khan reached Washington on Saturday afternoon, a large number of his supporters gathered outside the airport and the Pakistani ambassador’s residence, braving sweltering heat. Mr Khan, who is staying with the ambassador, has always enjoyed a strong support among Pakistani-Americans.
A rally of over 100 cars followed the prime minister from Dulles Airport to the ambassador’s residence.
On Sunday evening, Mr Khan will address a large community gathering at Washington’s Capital One Arena.
On Monday, the prime minister will arrive at the White House and, after the book signing ceremony, will attend two sessions: a small group meeting and an extended meeting. The first meeting will be in the Oval Office and the second in the cabinet room.
Prime Minister Khan will also have a one-on-one meeting with President Trump. The US leader will accompany him on a White House tour that will give them more time “to mingle and chat”, the foreign minister said.
On July 23, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will call on the prime minister. Mr Khan will also address a meeting at the US Institute of Peace and have lunch with newspaper editors.
Later, he will go to Capitol Hill for a meeting with the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and also address the bipartisan Pakistani American Caucus. So far, more than 40 lawmakers have reportedly signed up for this meeting PM Khan will also meet Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi before returning home on July 23.
On Saturday, about 50 Pakistani Christians and others gathered outside the White House to demand protections for religious minorities in Pakistan.
Chanting “Long Live Pakistan, God Bless America and PM Imran Khan Welcome,” they made it clear that they were not against their country of origin or the prime minister’s visit.
They said they were protesting against forced marriages/conversions, misuse of blasphemy laws and over four-year detention of Yuhannabad victims.
They also prayed for peace in Pakistan and for Imran Khan’s success in improving the Pakistani economy.
Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2019