ABU DHABI // Asif Ali Zardari, the president of Pakistan, will begin his first official visit to the UAE tomorrow to discuss strengthening financial and social ties. The two-day state visit follows last week's Friends of Pakistan meeting in Abu Dhabi, when a group of 14 countries pledged their support to stabilise Pakistan's ailing economy and protect the country from terrorism.
The foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi; the finance minister, Shaukat Tarin; and the minister of interior, Rehman Malik, will accompany the president in meeting Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, in the capital, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in Dubai. "We will also thank the UAE for their support with the Friends of Pakistan meeting. There may be some projects which have been identified and we may discuss which projects the UAE may be interested in," said Javed Malik, Pakistan's ambassador at large, who will also join the group.
"The entourage is very focused. The minister of interior's presence naturally indicates that there will be discussions in the field of the fight on terror. Then we have the finance minister who will discuss the economic problems at the moment, that indicates the kind of discussion. And the foreign minister will obviously be more focused on discussing foreign policy," he said. At the Friends of Pakistan meeting, embassy-level delegates and UN representatives agreed to focus on Pakistan's energy needs, economic recovery, infrastructure development, institution building, improved trade access and better security.
As the biggest investor in Pakistan, the UAE's support has not waned despite scepticism from elsewhere, Mr Malik said. The UAE has invested in Pakistan's telecommunications industry, oil refineries, real estate and hotels. "Those areas will be further discussed," he added. Since being elected in September, Mr Zardari, has had to deal with two major threats: economic collapse and terrorism. Last week, the finance chief Mr Tarin admitted that his government was fighting scepticism in its attempts to raise loans and stave off bankruptcy. The value of the Pakistan rupee has increased after a US$7.6 billion (Dh28 billion) IMF loan offered earlier this month.
Pakistan is hopeful that the UAE will continue to support its neighbour in its time of need. "The aim is to boost cultural and social ties. We already have a strong friendship and despite the difficulties that Pakistan has had the UAE has remained as the highest investor. The relationship is deep and needs to be further strengthened," Mr Malik said. email@example.com