One-fifth of PM’s term spent abroad, NA informed


ISLAMABAD: In the two-and-a-half years the PML-N has been in power, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has spent nearly 200 days away from the country. These trips have cost the national exchequer a hefty amount of Rs638.276 million.

Information regarding the foreign tours made by the prime minister since he took office was laid before the National Assembly on Wednesday in response to a question posed by the PPP’s Imran Zafar Leghari.

According to the written response, the PM has made 65 trips abroad between June 2013 and Feb 2016. On paper, the response was attributed to the minister for foreign affairs. However, since Mr Sharif himself holds charge of that portfolio, the PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, came to the house to answer supplementary questions.

But this was an un-starred question — not marked for verbal reply — and therefore no one was allowed to make supplementary queries on the matter during question hour.

Over Rs600m spent on 65 trips since PML-N came to power

A reading of the response reveals that of the approximately 1,000 days the prime minister has held office, at least 187 have been spent outside the country. These do not include the PM’s regular private visits to Saudi Arabia during Ramazan, as well as his private trips to the UK.

According to the reply, the prime minister’s most frequently visited country is the UK, where one of his sons has business interests. He has visited the UK 17 times during this near-1,000 day period.

For example, in Oct 2013, Nawaz Sharif was to make a four-day trip to the US between Oct 20 and 23. But he stopped over in the UK on his way to the US – on Oct 19 and 20 – and again on his way back – on Oct 24 and 25. He then went back to that country on Oct 27 and stayed there until Nov 1. In total, the four days of transit and six days spent in the UK cost the national kitty Rs17.43 million.

Prime Minister Sharif, who spends most of his weekends at his personal residence in Raiwind, on the outskirts of Lahore, has also drawn flak from the opposition over his continued absence from the sittings of both houses of parliament. During the current National Assembly session, Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah even joked “It seems that we have to take out an advertisement in the papers to bring the prime minister back to the house”.

Saudi military alliance

Once again on Wednesday, Sartaj Aziz insisted that Pakistan had so far not made any commitment to become a part of the 34-member alliance of Islamic countries, headed by Saudi Arabia.

In reply to a number of supplementary queries, Mr Aziz said that although Pakistan supported this Saudi-led initiative to combat terrorism in the region, “we are yet to [determine]what role Pakistan will be playing in this alliance. We have not formally joined this alliance”.

Talking about the ongoing 20-nation military exercise in Saudi Arabia, the adviser said Pakistan was taking part under a bilateral defence agreement. When Mahmood Khan Achakzai asked why Iran, Iraq and Syria weren’t a part of this alliance, Mr Aziz said a meeting of the alliance was due next month, where the issue would be discussed.

Mr Aziz also informed the house that Pakistan’s economy had lost around $107 billion, or around Rs8,702.75 billion, due to the “war against terrorism”

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