Xi’s Pakistan Trip at Risk From 3 Weeks of Protests, Sharif SaysFaseeh Mangi and Kamran Haider
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said three weeks of anti-government protests have raised questions about whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the South Asian nation as planned this month, imperiling $34 billion of deals that are scheduled to be signed.
“We want to work with the Chinese openly, now I don’t know what will happen to that,” Sharif said today in Islamabad on the fourth day of an emergency session of parliament. He called for the opposition to set aside differences to preserve democracy.
Pakistan’s “fragile” democracy and history of military coups increase the vulnerability of an economic overhaul that’s essential for loan disbursements from the International Monetary Fund, Moody’s Investors Service said today. Xi is scheduled to visit India this month -- Pakistan’s traditional rival -- as the Chinese leader looks to balance the India’s renewed relationship with Japan.
“Chinese investment not coming through can be a serious setback for projects including coal power plants,” Umair Naseer, economist at Global Securities Pakistan Ltd., said by phone from Karachi. “We are close with China, and this can just be a delay, but all depends on the situation in the capital improving.”
China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner, with total trade in 2013 valued at $15.3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Xi’s visit has been postponed, Sharif foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz said in a phone interview in Islamabad today without elaborating.
“China hopes there will be efforts in Pakistan to ensure domestic stability,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing today. The timing of Xi’s trip to Pakistan hasn’t been finalized, he said.
Xi will probably visit India in the third week of September and exact dates will be announced when both countries are ready, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said last month. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Japan in August to boost ties, with both nations embroiled in territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.
Protestors led by opposition party leader Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have been camping in Islamabad since mid-August, alleging that last year’s general elections were rigged and demanding Sharif’s resignation. Clashes with police that began Aug. 30 killed three people and injured about 500 when demonstrators tried to move toward Sharif’s residence, prompting the military to ask politicians to end the strife.
Khan’s party and the government have since exchanged proposals to resolve the standoff, boosting the KSE100 Index by 3.3 percent in the past five days. The gauge tumbled about 6 percent last month, the biggest drop in three years.