Pakistan is engaged in high-stakes negotiations with Gulf nations to secure billions of dollars in investments. These discussions come as Islamabad strives to stabilise its economy by attracting much-needed foreign currency, while the oil-rich Gulf monarchies seek to diversify their economies and extend their influence.

According to a report by Saeed Shah published on the Wall Street Journal, a significant development on the horizon involves Saudi Arabia’s potential involvement in a massive copper mining project. Canada’s Barrick Gold is spearheading the development of this colossal mine, located in western Pakistan, at an estimated cost of $7 billion. Sources familiar with the project reveal that Saudi officials are in talks about acquiring a stake in this ambitious venture.

Furthermore, advanced negotiations are underway for the establishment of a Saudi oil refinery within Pakistan’s borders. This ambitious project, estimated to cost up to $14 billion, has garnered the attention of both Islamabad and Gulf officials.

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This marks a notable shift for the Gulf states, moving away from traditional loans and grants to a strategic focus on acquiring assets to bolster their sovereign wealth funds.

For Pakistan, these investments come at a critical juncture. The nation, home to a population of 240 million and armed with nuclear capabilities, has been grappling with economic turmoil and political instability. In June, an agreement was reached with the International Monetary Fund for another bailout, reflecting the urgency of the situation.

To pave the way for these investments, Pakistan’s military, a dominant institution within the country, is taking measures to streamline the deal-making process. This initiative aims to address previous concerns raised by Gulf investors regarding bureaucratic hurdles and political uncertainties.

The potential investments span a wide range of sectors, including mining, energy infrastructure, farmland, and the privatisation of government businesses. Notably, Pakistan’s newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council, which includes the army chief, has been designed to expedite the bureaucratic procedures associated with Gulf investment.

Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s outgoing planning minister and head of the executive committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, emphasised the strategic positioning of Pakistan as a gateway to growth in Asia. He stressed the importance of providing investors with the assurance of policy continuity for their investments.

The Saudi deputy mining and foreign ministers have recently visited Islamabad to discuss this significant investment endeavour. These discussions align with Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s announcement that parliament will dissolve, potentially paving the way for a nonpolitical caretaker government and facilitating economic decisions.

Pakistan’s relationship with its military is pivotal, with the army wielding considerable influence in the country. The Gulf has maintained direct ties with Pakistan’s military for decades, underscoring the military’s role as a key facilitator in these negotiations.

The scope of the potential deals is substantial, with Pakistan hoping to secure around $25 billion in investments. Key areas of interest include solar energy, information technology, and the defence industry. Furthermore, Pakistan is prepared to offer uncultivated government land on long leases for agriculture, aiming to attract diverse investments.

While concrete figures from the Gulf nations have yet to be disclosed, the prospect of significant investments has generated substantial interest. In this context, the ongoing economic challenges faced by Egypt and Pakistan have presented an opportunity for asset acquisition on favourable terms.

Efforts to secure investments will likely see competition between Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Both nations have expressed keen interest in various sectors, including infrastructure and logistics.

Amidst these negotiations, Islamabad has announced a tender for terminal services at Islamabad airport, a contract that is expected to draw interest from both the U.A.E. and Qatar. Pakistan’s transition to a nonpolitical caretaker government is anticipated to catalyse these investment deals.

At the heart of the negotiations lies the prospect of a Saudi oil refinery, a deal that is reportedly on the cusp of realisation. The potential partnership with Saudi Aramco for this project underscores Pakistan’s strategic significance in the region.

The mining sector also offers a lucrative opportunity, particularly in copper, a critical resource for the transition to cleaner energy. The joint venture between Barrick Gold and the Pakistani government in the Reko Diq mine has attracted Saudi interest, with the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, and Saudi mining company Ma’aden reportedly eyeing a stake in the mine.

While challenges and security concerns persist, these negotiations mark a pivotal moment for Pakistan. With the potential for substantial investments across various sectors, the country seeks to harness its untapped potential and forge strategic partnerships in the Gulf region.