He expressed his views while addressing a ceremony in Islamabad to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Pakistan and China for the 1,200 MW Chashma-5 (C-5) nuclear power project.
Islamabad has been negotiating with the IMF since early February for the release of $1.1 billion, part of a $6.5bn bailout package inked in 2019 by the previous PTI government.
The staff-level agreement for the tranche’s release has been delayed since November. In total, about $2.7bn is left to be disbursed from the package, which is scheduled to expire this month.
The premier’s remarks come after the government announced that about $2.3 billion in Chinese loans would be rolled over before the ongoing fiscal year ends on June 30.
“It is a great occasion and a great moment between two great friends, China and Pakistan,” he said, adding that the power project was a “great step forward” for economic cooperation between the two countries.
The premier said that he had inaugurated the K-3 nuclear power project in Karachi a few months ago and today an agreement had been signed for the C-5 project.
“Hopefully, we will kickstart it without further delay,” he said. He noted that investment from China, to the tune of $4.8 billion, had sent a message “loud and clear” that Pakistan was a place where Chinese companies and investors continued to show their trust.
“Our friendship is higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the deepest ocean, sweeter than sugar and honey, and stronger than iron and steel,” he said, adding that the Chinese president had described the relationship between the two sides as one of “iron brothers”.
He said that Pakistan had met all the terms and conditions of the IMF’s ninth review, yet the process faced “inordinate delay”.
“We thought this would be done two months ago, three months ago but there has been inordinate delay … China, once again, came to our help and rescue. This is friendship. A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
He said that apart from China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, had also been helping Pakistan.
“But at this point and time, at this juncture, Chinese financial support has been outstanding,” he said, adding that was at a loss of words to express his gratitude.
“We are deeply obliged to President Xi Jinping, to the Chinese leadership and to the Chinese finance minister,” he said, as he also recognised the efforts of FInance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team.
PM Shehbaz said during last few months, China had also renewed commercial and sovereign loans which reflected the unparalleled friendship between the two countries.