Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan says he is attending an investment conference in Saudi Arabia boycotted by other world leaders because “we’re desperate” for loans from the kingdom.
“The reason I feel I have to avail myself of this opportunity is because in a country of 210 million people, right now we have the worst debt crisis in our history,” Khan told the Middle East Eye on October 22.
“Unless we get loans from friendly countries or the [International Monetary Fund], we actually won’t have in another two or three months enough foreign exchange to service our debts or to pay for our imports. So we’re desperate at the moment.”
Other global leaders are boycotting the Saudi investment conference to protest the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Khan told the Middle East Eye that he is concerned over the “shocking” death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, but said “we will wait for whatever the Saudi explanation is… We hope there is an explanation that satisfies people and those responsible are punished.”
It is Khan’s second visit to Saudi Arabia in just over a month. He has not as yet succeeded in securing significant financial assistance from Riyadh to stave off a looming balance of payments crisis.
The Independent Human Rights Commission, a Pakistani rights group, criticized Khan’s decision to go to the Saudi conference, saying the government should have taken a clearer stand on Khashoggi’s killing, and that “business interests” should not undermine the “right to dissent” and freedom of expression.