* Nawaz says CPEC is set to turn Pakistan into a strategic gateway of global economic activity * Urges investors to set up coal-based power plants in Pakistan

COLOMBO: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said Pakistanís corporate friendly environment makes it an attractive destination for foreign investment and invited the Sri Lankan businessmen to explore the opportunities particularly in energy and infrastructure sectors.

The prime minister, who is in Sri Lanka on an official visit, met the industry heads, top executives and media moguls and discussed with them the prospects of investment in each otherís countries.

He said Pakistan had embarked upon the journey to prosperity after his government took solid steps for strengthening the economy and ensuring peace in the country. He said since assuming office in 2013, he laid much emphasis on addressing the economic issues and terrorism. He mentioned the increase in countryís GDP growth from 3 to 4.6 percent, which he said was expected to touch 5 percent by the end of this fiscal year.

Nawaz said Pakistan would soon become a strategic hub of economic activity and invited the Sri Lankan businessmen to visit Pakistan and see themselves the possibilities of doing business. He mentioned that leading international publication, fund managers and rating agencies including Bloomberg and Moodyís had given positive assessments about Pakistanís economy.

Nawaz highlighted the focus of his government on regional and international connectivity and mentioned the recently launched China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which included a multiple package of development projects worth $46 billion.

Nawaz said Pakistan would soon turn into a strategic gateway of economy in the region. He mentioned that Pakistan was also promoting other regional energy and connectivity projects including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, Central Asia-South Asia (CASA 1000) project, and the Torkham-Jalalabad road project in Afghanistan.

He said his government was keen to overcome energy shortage and was setting up feasible power plants to cater to the electricity needs for next 15-20 years. He urged upon the Sri Lankan investors to tap this potential and also consider about setting up coal-based power plants.

The prime minister said Pakistan wants strong relations with Sri Lanka and added that in addition to the existing close political ties, there was a need to deepen the trade links as well.

He said since 1990, when he became prime minister for the first time, he had special regard for maintaining long-term and close relations with Sri Lanka. He said SAARC was an important regional hub and its member states should closely collaborate with each other for the benefit of their people. He welcomed the proposal about Sri Lankaís mediatory role if played for bringing the SAARC member states closer.

The Sri Lankan businessmen, who had recently visited Pakistan, spoke favourably of the countryís environment for potential investors and mentioned about the improvement in economic conditions and security during last two years.