Pakistan PM Imran Khan will still attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, even though a number of ministers from Europe and the US will pull out AFP/Handout

ISLAMABAD - AFP
Pakistan's PM Imran Khan to attend controversial Saudi conference

Pakistan's foreign ministry announced Friday (Oct 19) that Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend a Saudi Arabian investment conference, despite a string of cancellations from leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The decision comes a day after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior ministers from Europe announced plans to skip the conference.

Khan's visit comes as Pakistan continues to court "friendly" nations in search of billions of dollars to shore up its deteriorating finances as it faces a balance of payment crisis and upcoming talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a potential bailout.

Khan's participation in the conference "signifies our solidarity with the kingdom in its efforts to become an emerging hub of international business and investment", the foreign ministry said in the statement.

"The conference provides an opportunity to interact with important business leaders who are interested in investing in Pakistan."

The conference is being touted as a high-powered showcase for the economic reforms of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Khan made his maiden foreign visit as premier to Saudi Arabia in September as Islamabad explored alternative avenues to financing before approaching the IMF.

Since taking power in August Khan has sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.

But help has been in short supply and economists' warnings have grown increasingly urgent.

The visit also comes as Pakistan's central bank warned this week that inflation would likely double in the coming year - hitting 7.5 per cent - while the country's growth target rate of 6.2 per cent would likely be missed.

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