Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in the capital on Saturday on a three-day state visit, and is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with President Asif Ali Zardari at the Aiwan-e-Sadar today, official sources said.
This is President Abbas’ second visit to Pakistan in three years. Earlier, it was expected that the two leaders would hold their meeting in Lahore due to pressing engagements of President Zardari in the provincial capital of Punjab.
During the meeting, the presidents will discuss issues related to the world and the Middle East in particular. However, diplomatic sources expect that the worsening financial situation faced by Abbas’ administration may also figure prominently in their negotiations. “Dire financial needs of the Palestinians have brought Abbas to Islamabad,” an Arab diplomat requesting anonymity said.
“Pakistan, being a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and Vice-Chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, is in a position to help arrange financial help for Palestinians,” he added.
Abbas will also express his gratitude to the people and the government of Pakistan for their support to Palestinians in their struggle to win recognition by the UN as a Non-Member Observer State in November last year. Pakistan was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution calling the world body to recognise Palestine as a full member.
During his three-day state visit, President Abbas will be joined by his Pakistani counterpart in inaugurating the building of the Palestinian Embassy in Islamabad. The ceremony will take place at Aiwan-e-Sadar. The visiting leader may also ask Pakistan to enhance special seats reserved in its higher educational institutions for Palestinian students.
Abbas is visiting Pakistan at a time when his government is faced with unprecedented internal and external challenges; the most serious among which is its financial situation, a foreign ministry official said.
Ahmed Majdalani, a minister in the Palestinian National Authority told Chinese news agency Xinhua in October that the PNA cabinet in the West Bank was barely able to find enough money to pay September’ wages to its employees.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2013.