Zardari, Nawaz to visit S. Arabia to check possible economic crunch in Pak

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Islamabad, Mar 13 : After the formation of the new government, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif are likely to undertake a joint visit to Saudi Arabia to seek the Saudi oil facility in view of the economic crunch that could hit the country in the near future.

The two leaders may in all possibility get a favourable response from Riyadh, said Diplomatic and official sources.

"The unique visit is on the cards, which will be essentially meant to thank the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, for his endeavours and keenness to see Pakistan stable, peaceful and prosperous," The News quoted a prominent Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) leader as saying.

He added: "Certainly, the two leaders would request the Saudi monarch to extend and reinforce his generosity towards Pakistan at a time when it is extremely hard-pressed due to the escalating oil prices. They would also underline that the oil facility, supply of oil on deferred payment, would help the new government stave off economic hardships to a significant extent." According to the paper, many PML-N and PPP leaders are optimistic that the Saudi king would agree to the oil facility because he wants no chaos in Pakistan due to the economic situation. They feel that the marriage of convenience between their parties would have an auspicious start if they get the Saudi facility. Their economic managers are spending sleepless nights due to the rising oil prices in the international market even though they have yet to take over the country's affairs, said the two parties leaders.

A source said Saudi Arabia was displeased over the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif to contest the Feb 18 general elections as it took their ouster from the electoral contest as a breach of understanding under which the Sharif family had returned to Pakistan.

The two brothers and their families flew back to Pakistan from exile in Saudi Arabia on Nov 25, 2007, just a day before the deadline for filing nomination papers for the general elections. It had been agreed that their participation in the polls would not be thwarted and they would not create instability.

Another PML-N leader said Riyadh was happy and satisfied over the election results in which Pakistan's popular political forces got their due share in the cake, raising the chances of reconciliation and accord.

Referring to continued Saudi assistance to Pakistan, an official said that the kingdom stood first among the donors in allocating around 600 million dollars when the killer earthquake struck Azad Kashmir and some parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Oct 2005. Its operations in the quake-affected areas are still continuing.

ANI

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