Imran Khan takes austerity drive to US; says no to expensive hotel will stay in envoy’s house

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to stay at the official residence of his country envoy in Washington during his visit to the US to reduce the cost of the trip, a media report has said, amid an austerity drive by the government to solve the cash-strapped nation’s financial woes.

Prime Minister Khan, after assuming office last year, launched several austerity measures.Officials in Islamabad are believed to have informed the Pakistan embassy that Prime Minister Khan desires to stay at the ambassador’s official residence in Washington during his three-day visit to the US starting from July 21, Dawn newspaper reported.

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board last week approved a three-year USD 6 billion bailout plan to resuscitate Pakistan’s ailing economy.

But the IMF has attached some tough terms for the bailout, indicating that the government needs to take strict austerity measures.While staying at the ambassador’s residence can considerably reduce the cost of the visit, Dawn report said that neither the United States secret service nor the city administration appears “very receptive” to the idea, the paper said.

The US secret service takes over the security of a visiting dignitary as soon as he or she lands in the US while the city administration has to ensure that the visit does not disrupt Washington’s traffic.The ambassador’s residence is in the heart of Washington’s diplomatic enclave. There are at least a dozen embassies in and around that area, including those of India, Turkey and Japan.

A visiting government head holds a number of meetings with US officials, lawmakers and media and think-tank representatives during his stay in Washington.Since the residence is not large enough for all these meetings, the prime minister will have to meet his guests at the Pakistan embassy, commuting through Washington’s busy traffic during rush hours. To do so, his entourage will have to drive by most of these embassies as well as the US vice president’s official residence, the report said.

Some immediate family members of President Trump also live between the two locations.

Any closure of the street on which the ambassador’s residence is situated will prevent other residents, including several ambassadors, from travelling to and from their workplaces during the three-day stay of Khan.

Security issues force visiting heads of state and government to stay at one of half a dozen hotels that have special arrangement for VVIPs. This makes it easy for the US secret service to protect the guest.But if the prime minister still wants to avoid a hotel, he can stay with one of the rich Pakistani-Americans in the DC suburbs, the report said.

Most of these houses have high boundary walls and can be easily secured. Staying in a suburb, however, means travelling to Washington every morning and holding all the meetings at the Pakistan Embassy, it said.

This, however, will be another headache for the US secret service, the report said.