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ISLAMABAD:
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 12 foreign trips to three continents cost a total of $680,000 – less than half of the expenditures incurred on one visit each by former president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to New York.

Imran continued his austerity policy during the first three years in power, cutting budget of his office and official residence by about 40%, according to the figures shared by the Prime Minister’s Office.

In total, Imran went abroad 26 times, which cost about Rs176 million or $1.1 million at current exchange rate. But the amount is still less than the expenditures on one visit of Zardari ($1.1 million) to New York, nine years ago and slightly higher than $901,250 on Nawaz’s one visit to the same city in 2016.

Some foreign destinations are not common among the three heads of the mainstream political parties, which have been excluded from this analysis. The data available of 12 trips to Asia, Europe and America by Prime Minister Imran showed the expenditures of $680,115 or Rs108 million.

Covering only four destinations, out of these 12, by Zardari, the expenses amounted to $2.1 million or Rs318 million. Former prime minister Nawaz had visited 10 of these places, which cost $4.5 million or Rs712 million. The total expenditures on Nawaz’s all foreign trips were Rs1.8 billion

However, the savings that Imran has been making by discouraging unnecessary expenditures on foreign trips and allowing only minimum expenditures are being lost by one wrong decision of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

The central bank’s decision to set interest rate at 13.25% in the last fiscal year added additional over Rs1 trillion into debt servicing cost that jumped to Rs2.7 trillion, according to a petition filed by Dr Zubair Khan in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

On average these 12 visits between 2018 to 2021 by Imran cost $56,676 per trip, as compared with $1.1 million incurred on Zardari’s trip to New York in 2012, and $901,250 expenses incurred on Nawaz’s visit to New York in 2016, according to the figures compiled by the Foreign Office.

Imran Khan had also visited Washington in 2019 that consumed $66,792, while Zardari’s 2009 trip to the same destination cost $602,948 and Nawaz’s visit in 2013 cost $360,557.

Imran is following a policy of avoiding unnecessary foreign trips and having small delegation to avoid the high cost, without, what a government minister said, compromising on national objectives. However, the opposition has remained critical of the government’s foreign policy, particularly his Kashmir policy.

Imran went abroad 26 times in three years, Pervez Ashraf had nine foreign trips in one year stint, Yousuf Reza Gilani had 48 trips in four years and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had 19 foreign visits in over one year, according to the PM Office statistics.

The PM Office’s data also showed that Imran Khan’s 2020 trip to Davos, Switzerland, cost $53,914 as against earlier estimates of $68,000. Nawaz’s 2017 trip to Davos cost the exchequer $563,584.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s 2020 visit to Afghanistan cost the national kitty less than $10,000 compared with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s expenditure of $59,000. Former president Zardari’s 2009 visit had cost the national exchequer $44,000.

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