Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that he must attend the three-day Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia from Tuesday despite the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khan told the Middle East Eye that he had to attend the conference as Pakistan needed urgent loans from Saudi Arabia. “We’re desperate at the moment,” he said.
Khan left for the conference on Monday. Saudi Arabia has been widely blamed for the journalist’s disappearance. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday claimed officials in Riyadh do not know how Khashoggi was killed in their consulate in Istanbul or where his body is.
“He was killed in the consulate,” Jubeir admitted. “We do not know in terms of details how. We do not know where the body is. We are determined to uncover every stone.”
Khan said his country was in the “worst debt crisis” in the history of Pakistan. “The reason I feel I have to avail myself of this opportunity [to speak to the Saudi leadership] is because in a country of 210 million people right now we have the worst debt crisis in our history,” he said. “Unless we get loans from friendly countries or the International Monetary Fund we actually won’t have in another two or three months enough foreign exchange to service our debts or to pay for our imports.”
Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, had been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 2017. On Wednesday, audio recordings accessed by a Turkish daily suggested that Khashoggi had been tortured before being decapitated.
Top financial, trade and foreign officials from Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands have already dropped out of the event in Riyadh. On Thursday, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and United Kingdom International Trade Secretary Liam Fox also decided not to attend the conference.