During his visit, the PM hopes to further bolster relations with China.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Sunday that he expects to further deepen strategic relations and enhance trade and business ties with China during his upcoming visit.
“I hope the visit will result in further cementing our strategic relations and enhancing business and trade with China,” he told the China Global Television Network (CGTN) in an interview.
The premier is scheduled to begin an official visit to China on November 1. It is his first visit to the neighbouring country since he took office in April.
Shehbaz Sharif is among the first batch of foreign leaders to visit China after the conclusion of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing.
“I feel honoured and deeply touched. It is heartwarming to know that I am one of the first leaders from the world visiting my brotherly and friendly country China. That shows and reflects the depth of our friendship and strength of our understanding and bond,” he added.
The premier said that he looks forward to his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and the Chinese leadership to enhance cooperation in various fields.
Regarding assistance extended by China to the flood-hit people in Pakistan, he expressed gratitude for the Chinese leadership, people and companies who have generously contributed.
“China has supplied food items, medicines, mosquito nets and lots of other items for the flood-affected people,” he added.
He said that the Chinese leadership has contributed in a big way and wants to know from the Pakistani government what else Beijing could do to support the flood-stricken people.
Appreciating the rapid development of China in economic, social and cultural fields, he opined that the neighbouring country believes in globalisation and he wanted to emulate the Chinese model of economic development.
About the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which has entered a high-quality second phase, he said that the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has transformed the energy sector and infrastructure in the country.
“The road network constructed under CPEC in all parts of the country has shortened the travelling time and now people could easily reach from one place to another,” he added.
Shehbaz said he will also discuss expanding the role of CPEC under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while commenting on political rival Imran Khan on Sunday, claimed that the military had gone to “great lengths for four years to make him successful” in the hope that perhaps his “success” might bring prosperity to Pakistan.
The PM was addressing a meeting with YouTubers in Lahore where he engaged with the attendees in a conversation.
“Was the vote of no confidence unconstitutional or unlawful?” he questioned when prompted by a YouTuber to comment on Imran’s criticisms targeting the government.
“The facts that were revealed lay bare the truth that to make the vote of no confidence unsuccessful, Imran Niazi had said that in return you may get as long an extension as you like,” added PM Shehbaz referring to DG ISI’s claims that the PTI chief had offered the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Javed Bajwa an indefinite extension to his tenure in return for saving his government from ouster.
The PM expressed his horror over the thought that an “offer is being made to end a parliamentary matter in an unconstitutional manner”.
“Imagine a person spews venom about an institution that had nurtured him,” he continued.
“I believe that the institution [military] had set aside all barriers that perhaps Pakistan would prosper through this man and gave him such support that neither did anyone receive in the past 75 years nor would they ever after him,” he added.
“And on a lighter note, I say, if we had even gotten 20 per cent of the support he has gotten, then under the leadership of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan would have gone up like a rocket,” said the PM “and yet that man [Imran] failed despite all these pushes.”
“A beat-up old car starts running after a few pushes,” he explained “but this car, even after all these pushes did not run.”
“And then this man pushes that institution for his own selfish reasons,” criticised PM Shehbaz, “he maligns the COAS, gets statements from Shehbaz Gill and [Azam] Swati, and maligns the institution in the most despicable of words, then [how] can any sensible Pakistani stand that?”
“And then fine, you criticise a person, but then to go on to [talk about] their families, not even sparing their children,” he added, “not even an animal does that.”
During the meeting, the PM also compared Imran with Adolf Hitler in that the latter too had succeeded in gaining a significant following like Imran’s “cult”.
“But even then, at least Hitler had actually managed to achieve some things” he noted counting the construction of industries and the “world famous” German high-way system – the Autobahn – amongst them “before he destroyed it all with his own hands because he was a fascist”.
“So he had at least achieved something, but you don’t even have a single thing to your name,” he said addressing the PTI chief.
The PM claimed that this was the reason that in his rallies and political sit-ins Imran was “unable to share anything about his own performance” and so all he could do was “call others thieves and robbers”. Even though, he said Imran himself “turned out to be “the biggest embezzler of all”, as he referred to the Toshakhana (gift depository) reference verdict.
Speaking about Imran’s Azadi march that is feared to put the likely visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in November on hold, the PM implied that it would not be the first time that the PTI chief’s political protests hurt the country’s foreign ties.
“It is very unfortunate that history is repeating itself,” he said, “in September 2013, [Chinese] President Xi Jinping was to come to Pakistan and these sit-ins were being staged. Dirty laundry was hanging outside and the streets were filled with filth.”
“I am personally aware that the ambassador to China said that please end the sit-in for three days, our friend China’s president is to visit, you may continue the sit-in after that trip and he [Imran] said we will not do that,” he continued.
PM Shehbaz revealed that then-premier Nawaz Sharif had tasked him with meeting various institutional heads and the Chinese ambassador. “I said if the visit is delayed it will hurt Pakistan greatly,” he added “but they [PTI] did not listen to us and that trip was delayed by seven months”.
“And today again,” the premier alleged that Imran is back on the streets “for his own personal gains”.
Shehbaz also claimed that a “businessman” who “has nothing to do with politics” had approached him with a message from Imran asking for negotiations while Imran continued to threaten him in public.
The premier alleged that Imran had wanted to find a resolution on two matters: the appointment of the COAS and the election date. “He proposed he will put forward three names and asked us to give three”.
“I said did they take us into confidence when they decided the amendments to the army act?” he revealed adding that he had refused to negotiate on the matter because the appointment of the COAS was a “constitutional matter”.
PM Shehbaz also criticised Imran for not sharing a parliamentary attitude and having resorted to divisive politics. As an example of his own attitude being different from Imran’s, he claimed that he had spoken with MBS during his recent visit and requested him to release all those who had been guilty of disrespecting Masjid-e-Nabavi after they heckled and shouted slogans against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation during their visit to the holy site earlier this year.
The premier said that Prince Salman had assured him of their release orders to be issued at the earliest and added that he had done this because he saw himself as the “prime minister of all of Pakistan, not just one party”.