PM Gillani lands in Medina with $6 bn wish list
07 June, 2008
MEDINA: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani arrived here on Saturday with comprehensive plans to request the Saudi government for aid ranging between three to six billion US dollars in oil, energy, trade and agriculture sectors.
Informed sources on the PM’s special plane, carrying 80 guests of the Saudi government, including five federal ministers, said the package being envisaged includes free oil and lavish provision of wheat supplies by Saudi Arabia, now said to have abundant food supplies.
In return, the sources said, the prime minister, who would be joined by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday, would offer the Saudis hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land, which could be tilled by the Saudis and the product could be taken away for consumption in the Kingdom.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Agriculture Minister Nazar Gondal are also accompanying the prime minister.
The Saudis are being asked to set up fertiliser plants in Pakistan to boost the food production, a concern for the entire world as food shortages are expected to grow in coming years. Speaking to reporters on his special plane, Gilani thanked the Saudis for inviting a big economic and trade delegation and hoped that the talks, to be held in Jeddah on Sunday, would be fruitful.
He also commented on the domestic situation in Pakistan and advised the Punjab government to handle the lawyers’ long march in a deft manner so that no law and order situation was created.
He said the president had now realised that he had only opportunists who were with him in the last many years and people like former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and former speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain were criticising him.
Gilani said the new budget would provide adequate relief to the common man. Agencies add: Earlier, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani left on Friday on a three-day official visit to Saudi Arabia, saying his trip will further strengthen the strong bonds that already exist between the two brotherly countries.
The prime minister was seen off at the Chaklala Airbase by his Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Tariq Majid, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmud Ahmed and senior officials.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy very strong brotherly and historic relations and my talks with the Saudi leadership will focus on the regional and international situation, particularly the bilateral ties,” Gilani told the newsmen before leaving for Saudi Arabia.
In response to a question, the prime minister said the talks would also cover cooperation in various fields as his delegation included several ministers. Besides ministers for foreign affairs, defence, commerce, petroleum, food and agriculture, water and power and housing, the prime minister is being accompanied by PPP Secretary-General Jahangir Badr, some MNAs and officials concerned.
An aide said the prime minister was seeking an agreement with Saudi Arabia to defer oil payments as the country struggled to rein in the yawning trade and fiscal deficits. “The Saudi oil facility is also on the agenda,” the official, who declined to be identified, said. “Certainly, we have strong bilateral relations and traditionally, our leaders go there first to discuss various issues, including economic cooperation.”