Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday asked Karachi businessmen to devise a plan for an investment of $1 billion dollars from Saudi Arabia.
Addressing a ceremony at the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry during a one-day trip to the metropolitan city, the premier touched on a number of topics, including the recent import ban and the economic crisis.
"One billion dollars is available, it is a gift of investment from Saudi Arabia. As the prime minister, I am laying this in front of you. Sit together and brainstorm and make a feasibility plan. Set up a desalination plant and I believe that clean water will be available at every home within five years," he told the businessmen.
"Now it is up to you. This investment is available. It is on the table," he said, adding that he had told Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on the flight over to Karachi that he wanted to use the funds for the city.
He said that the Saudis had stated that were waiting for viable investment opportunities in Pakistan.
During his emphatic speech, PM Shehbaz also criticised the former PTI government and held it responsible for the current economic crisis.
Talking about the dollar, he said that the greenback was at Rs115 in August 2018 and had soared to Rs189 when he took his oath of office on April 11. "We (the government) had nothing to do with the Rs60-65 increase."
He went on to say that the dollar fell by Rs8 when he assumed office while the stock market also soared by almost 1,000 points.
Emphasising that he was not "going into any political point-scoring", the prime minister said that the previous government had deceased petrol prices when it suspected that the no-confidence motion would be successful.
He questioned the timing of the relief provided in the form of the fuel subsidy, saying that oil prices were the highest they had ever been globally and that Pakistan was burdened with debt. He called on the participants to tell him about any project the former government had executed with "seriousness" in the country which was related to the economy, agriculture or society.
He also lamented the support given to the "beloved" former government and its prime minister by the "powers that be" — a reference to the military establishment.
"In our 75-year history, nobody has and will ever receive the same support [...] If any of our governments had received even 30 per cent of the same support, Pakistan's trajectory would have shot up like a rocket."
He also questioned why citizens were facing loadshedding once again, asking whether it was due to "political instability or the worst corruption, incompetence and lack of planning?"
PM Shehbaz also defended his decision to ban non-essential luxury goods, saying that it would help the country's dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
"Why did I curb imports? The answer is simple [...] those who are fortunate are able to order things from abroad while the poor are unable to buy roti, daal."
He maintained that the ban had only been imposed for some time. "The immediate purpose was to save foreign exchange so that the dollar stabilises and we can finance our essential needs," he said, giving the example of edible oil.
"If difficult times are here, then we will have to give sacrifices and those who are fortunate will be the first in line," he said, adding that the ban would also help local industries.
PM proposes turning CPEC into 'trilateral arrangement'
Earlier in the day, the premier proposed turning the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into a "trilateral arrangement" between China, Pakistan and Turkey so that all three nations could benefit from its potential.
He made the remarks while addressing a launching ceremony at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works for the third MILGEM Corvette built by Turkey, where he was the chief guest.
"Trade activates have the potential to increase manifold with the development of financial and industrial activities. The ongoing CPEC project is set to translate our desire to enhance regional connectivity and maximise trade [...] with Gwadar at its focal point.
"I would like to avail this opportunity to propose that let this — CPEC — be a trilateral arrangement between China, Pakistan and Turkey and let us benefit from its wonderful potential to benefit our nations," he said, assuring the participants that the government was committed to developing maritime infrastructure.
At the outset, PM Shehbaz began by lauding the launch of the warship built with the cooperation and collaboration of a Turkish company. He also appreciated the efforts of naval chief Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar.
"This is yet another great example of cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey under [the] very able and dynamic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is not only a great brother and friend but also a great supporter of Pakistan's cause, and under his leadership our mutual fraternal relations have transformed into much higher heights than before."
The premier went on to say that the people were witnessing the cooperation between the two countries in all fields, reiterating that relations could be further strengthened to benefit Pakistan and Turkey.
Talking about today's launch, PM Shehbaz said that it would further strengthen relations between Pakistan Navy and Turkish companies. "A time will come when such ships and bigger ships will be manufactured with Turkish expertise and technology, and with Pakistan's deletion programme and own designs."
Once again congratulating the naval chief and his team, he went on to say that Pakistan had a long coastline and a resource-rich maritime zone, adding that maritime activities were currently centered on Karachi's ports.
In a video message, the Turkish president said that his country wanted to share its expertise with Pakistan in the area of defence, adding that the MILGEM project was one such example.
He stated that Pakistan was located at a strategic location in South Asia and said that the Turkish people held the country and its people in high regard. He stated that the MILGEM project was carried out at the decided timeline without any delays, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The most modern weapons and sensory systems have been used to equip these vessels," Erdogan said, expressing the hope to further strengthen relations between the two countries.
Addressing the launch ceremony, the Turkish defence minister said the construction of vessels under the project would be beneficial for Pakistan's armed forces and would contribute to peace and stability in the region, as well as across the world.
Sharing details about the ships planned as part of the project, he underlined the importance of having a "strong defence industry" and "effective and deterrent armed forces". He also stressed the importance of technological independence in this context, saying, "I believe we will contribute to increasing the number of such projects, which are critical to both our countries' security and technological independence".
"Under the leadership of President Erdogan, Turkey has taken significant steps forward in almost every area, particularly in the defence industry," he said, adding that "we are ready to share [our] experiences and defence industry products with our friends and partners".
The defence minister said Pakistanis had an exceptional place in the hearts of Turkish people, and "with the strength we gain from the brotherly ties between our countries, we will continue our non-stop efforts to raise our relations to high levels".
"These ships will further strengthen the ties of friendship, cooperation and brotherhood between our countries and the sea power of the Pakistan Navy," Akar concluded.