New Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif likely to visit Saudi Arabia, China: Report

ISLAMABAD: Shehbaz Sharif is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia and China in his first foreign trip after taking charge as Pakistan’s new prime minister, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Traditionally, a Pakistani prime minister’s first foreign visit has often been to Riyadh and Beijing due to Islamabad’s strategic relationship with both countries.
Sharif, 70, was sworn-in as the 23rd prime minister of Pakistan on Monday following Imran Khan’s ouster a day earlier. Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, became the first Pakistani premier to lose a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.
The Express Tribune newspaper, quoting a leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), said that Sharif during his visit to Saudi Arabia will perform Umrah and meet the Saudi leadership.
The Sharif family maintains a close personal relationship with the Saudi royal family as the latter played a central role in ensuring the safe exit of Nawaz Sharif after the October 1999 coup.
Saudi Arabia in the past has extended financial bailout packages to successive Pakistani governments. Riyadh gave former prime minister Imran Khan‘s government a $6 billion bailout package, the report said.
It is unclear if Sharif will also seek financial assistance, given that Saudi Arabia provided $3 billion dollars to Pakistan not long ago, it said.
After the Saudi visit, Sharif is also expected to travel to China.
Sharif is known to enjoy a good reputation amongst the Chinese leadership because of his administrative qualities. During the previous PML-N tenure, Shehbaz played a central role in accelerating China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, the report noted.
China’s state media welcomed the election of Shehbaz as prime minister and commented that given the Sharif family’s previous engagements with Beijing, the new premier would prove better for bilateral relationship than Khan.
In his maiden address in the National Assembly on Monday, Sharif had heaped praise on Pakistan’s close relationship with China and Saudi Arabia.

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