Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister said Monday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will invest $25 billion each in his cash-strapped country within five years.
Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar told a group of Islamabad-based foreign journalists late Monday that different sectors, such as mines and minerals, agriculture, defense production and information technology, would receive the investment. He did not elaborate.
The prime minister said that the Saudi and UAE investments are part of a new “strategy for economic revival” to increase foreign direct investment in Pakistan under the supervision of the recently set up Special Investment Facilitation Council, or SIFC.
Established in June, the council comprises Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership.
Kakar spoke a day after the Pakistani military chief Asim Munir, while addressing business community leaders in the southern city of Karachi, emphasized the SIFC’s potential to attract investments of up to $100 billion from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries.
“I can confirm it,” he said when asked for his comments on the reported remarks by his military chief that Pakistan could receive an unprecedented $25 billion each from the Saudi Kingdom and the UAE under the SIFC.
Saudi and UAE officials did not immediately comment on Kakar’s assertions.
Kakar said that Pakistan’s untapped mineral deposits are estimated to be worth around $6 trillion. He noted work on the massive Reko Diq gold and copper mines in southwestern Baluchistan province was expected to start in December.
Last month, a Saudi delegation visited Pakistan to study mining sector investment opportunities and showed its readiness to tap into the Reko Diq deposits.
Pakistan is scrambling to deal with a critical balance of payments crisis. The country of about 241 million people needs billions of dollars in foreign exchange to repay international debts and bridge its trade deficit in the current financial year.
Islamabad is implementing long-delayed economic reforms in line with IMF requirements, leading to a historic increase in energy prices when inflation is already hovering at around 29%. The tough reforms have triggered almost daily nationwide protests, bloated electricity bills and soaring fuel prices.
While speaking Monday, Kakar defended an ongoing crackdown against the opposition party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, known as the Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI.
The crackdown, led by the military, has detained thousands of PTI supporters and leaders for allegedly playing a role in street protests in May, which also saw protesters storming and vandalizing several army installations.
Kakar denounced the violence as an attack on social order.
“An attempt was definitely made that would lead to social disorder,” the prime minister asserted, saying he supports “all lawful measures” to curb such activities in the future.
The caretaker prime minister and his administration are primarily required to oversee national elections expected to be held by February.
Former Prime Minister Khan was jailed on Aug. 5 after being sentenced to three years for selling state gifts and allegedly concealing their proceeds while in office. He refuted the graft charges as politically motivated and has appealed the conviction.
Khan, 70, has rejected charges that PTI supporters were behind the May violence, alleging his party is targeted by the military to keep from contesting the next elections.
Kakar denied the allegations, stressing that all political parties, including the PTI, would be allowed “without discrimination” to participate in the elections.
“We are here just to assist the electoral process in line with our constitutional responsibilities,” he said.
The caretaker prime minister reiterated Monday that militants plotting terrorist attacks in his country have obtained some of the military equipment left behind by the United States in neighboring Afghanistan, enhancing their capabilities to launch more lethal attacks against Pakistani security forces.
Kakar, 52, claimed that anti-state groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, and ethnic Baluch insurgents committing terrorist acts in his country have now armed themselves with thermal weapons, assault rifles, night vision goggles, and other equipment that U.S. troops left.
He did not offer evidence to substantiate his claims, saying his country was working closely with the Taliban government in Afghanistan to persuade them to evict TTP and other insurgents sheltering there.
“We are not accusing the U.S. of anything that we would need to share evidence (for),” Kakar said.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021 from a U.S.-backed government in Kabul as all American and NATO troops withdrew after almost two decades of war with Taliban insurgents.
Pakistani leaders complain fugitive TTP leaders and fighters have enjoyed greater operational freedom and intensified cross-border attacks since the Taliban returned to power.
Taliban leaders deny the charges, saying no one can use Afghan soil to threaten other countries, including Pakistan.