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Imran to attend Saudi moot despite opposition

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October 22, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Despite the Western boycott of a three-day major business conference beginning in Riyadh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan will be departing for the Saudi capital on Monday (today) to attend the conference.

The international conference aims to attract foreign capital and diversify the Saudi economy away from oil. Imran will reach Madina on Monday and arrive in Riyadh on Tuesday on the special invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz.

Meanwhile, Pakistan for the first time on Sunday publicly commented on the Jamal Khashoggi issue by welcoming the contacts between Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and their desire to continue to work together to address the issue. The observation has come from the Foreign Office a day before the departure of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia.

Diplomatic observers have appreciated the position taken by Pakistan on the matter since it deliberately avoided offering comments on mere speculations. They maintained that Pakistan didn’t become part of efforts to malign the Kingdom without evidence and instead wanted to ascertain the facts through probe before reaching any conclusion. The Foreign Office said, “We welcome the steps taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Turkey to address this issue.Disclosing facts to the public and bringing those responsible to justice is important in this regard.”

Meanwhile, contrary to the media speculation, the prime minister has no plan to visit Malaysia next week, as no schedule has been finalised in this regard. Highly-placed sources told The News on Sunday that the media had been speculating that the prime minister will visit Malaysia on October 28 on the invitation of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Muhammad who had telephonic conversation with Imran in Islamabad last week.

Both the prime ministers invited each other to visit their respective countries and the invitation was accepted by both. The sources said this led to kite-flying about the visit of Prime Minister Khan to Malaysia after returning from Saudi Arabia and before proceeding to China on November 3, but the matter of the fact is that no date and schedule have been fixed for the prime minister’s trip to Malaysia.

“The government will announce the schedule as the visit programme is finalised through diplomatic channels. For the time being, Prime Minister Mahathir’s visit to Pakistan and or Imran Khan’s visit to Malaysia isn’t on the cards,” the sources clarified. Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Malaysia Nafees Zakaria is in touch with Putrajaya/Kuala Lumpur for working out the visit by either of the prime ministers.

Nafees Zakaria, who has been tipped to become Pakistan’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, is keen to see the visit takes place in his presence in the Malaysian capital, the sources hinted.

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