Abbasi to visit NepalPakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi arrives in Kathmandu on Monday on a two-day visit to congratulate KP Sharma Oli on his recent appointment as the prime minister of Nepal.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi arrives in Kathmandu on Monday on a two-day visit to congratulate KP Sharma Oli on his recent appointment as the prime minister of Nepal.
Abbasi will be the first head of government or state to visit Nepal after Oli’s appointment as the new prime minister.
The last visit of Pakistani Prime Minister to Nepal was in November 2014 when then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif attended the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation held in Kathmandu.
The news of visit by the Pakistani PM came as a surprise to many in Kathmandu, including some senior government officials. Prime Minister Oli currently heads the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well. Many also believe that information about the visit was kept under wraps as PM Oli’s party CPN-UML tends to centralise power.
Though the two countries have yet to release details of the visit, senior government officials said the sole purpose of Abbasi’s visit is to expedite the Saarc process that has been stalled for two years and strengthening bilateral ties between Nepal and Pakistan.
The government side and the Pakistani Embassy in Kathmandu have confirmed his visit saying that details and agenda of the visit will be shared later, if any.
A Pakistani Embassy spokesperson in Kathmandu confirmed the visit, saying its “sole purpose is to congratulate Prime Minister Oli”. However, he did not divulge details as he too awaits further details from Islamabad.
“The sole purpose of the visit is to extend congratulations to PM Oli in person,” said Rajan Bhattarai, an aide to PM Oli, adding that the visit also shows Pakistan’s eagerness to strengthen bilateral ties with Nepal. “The visit was planned in a short time so we have no fixed agenda. Naturally, matters related to bilateral and regional issues will be discussed during the visit,” he added.
After the attack on the Indian army base in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, India had unilaterally announced in 2016 that it would not take part in the scheduled 19th Saarc Summit to be held in Islamabad and urged other South Asian nations to follow. After India’s refusal, four South Asian nations including Nepal, the chair of the regional grouping, rallied behind India and the fate of summit is still in limbo.
“Nepal is the current chair of the Saarc and Nepal’s role is crucial for taking the stalled Saarc process forward,” officials said, adding that Pakistan also wants to communicate that its situation is now normal and ready to host the summit. Pakistan has recently hosted many meetings of the Saarc and their understanding is that time has ripen to move ahead with the summit.
Due to suspension of direct flights between Nepal and Pakistan, the Pakistani PM will take a long route through the Gulf and will land in Kathmandu on Monday. He will be meeting with his counterpart Oli, President Bidya Devi Bhandari and leaders from various political parties during his two-day stay in Nepal.
Though the officials did not confirm, it is claimed that the Pakistani side would discuss during the visit the matter of Lt Col Mohammed Habib Zahir, who went missing from Lumbini in April 2017.
According to the Pakistani media reports, the former Pakistani army officer was offered a lucrative job in Nepal and had some contracts with foreign organisations working in Nepal.
After confirmation of his job and contract, he first landed in Kathmandu and then went to Lumbini as per instruction but vanished as soon as he came out of the Bhairahawa airport.
Resuming bilateral flights between Nepal and Pakistan, suspended some years back, and matters related to other bilateral issues will be discussed, according to officials.