Pakistan and Kuala Lumpur Summit (KS) saga

Everyone must have heard the maxim ‘People have friends but countries have interests’. It implies don’t let the hugs and Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) between leaders of two countries deceive you into believing this and that country are eternal friends. The two countries will stay friends and their leaders put a broad smile on their faces as long as it serves the best interests of their respective countries. Pakistan played an epitome of the maxim by sitting out of KS [and cut a sorry figure] on the reservations of Saudis –owing to the mammoth financial assistance it receives from the latter- and the UAE.

Pakistani government also faced the flak by majority of its citizens when an announcement of not attending the summit was made on the eleventh hour. The foreign minister of Pakistan had a busy day giving press releases and explanations for that matter explaining the decision of not attending the summit was purely in the interest of Pakistan. Reservations expressed by the Saudis were: the summit would divide the ummah; and second, it was an effort to create an organization parallel to OIC.

As of the sham excuses of staying neutral given by our Foreign Ministry, would Pakistan afford to by-cot any meeting of the Saudi led OIC? Only time will tell. But, the course of action must have been better thought out to handle the pressure from the Sheikhdoms and Chinese. If Pakistan’s PM thought he could successfully manage a diplomatic tightrope between Sheikhdoms on one side and Malaysia and Turkey on the other, a better- crafted plan should have been in place for such diplomatic finesse.

The memory of a trilateral meeting –on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting between the leaders of Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey has still not faded from the minds of people. Pakistan was also the first signatory to the trilateral agreement aiming at combating Islamophobia worldwide and finding solutions to the disputes between the Islamic countries. This agreement was signed following the fiery speech of Pakistan’s PM at UN General Assembly where he shed tears on the plight of Muslims worldwide and vowed to ameliorate their predicament by forming some proper platform.

The formation of a TV channel was announced to better depict the image of Muslims in the west. The supporters of the ruling party in Pakistan started jumping on the throats of the opposition saying Pakistan has finally got the leader that will not only take the ship of Pakistan ashore but would also ensure Muslim Ummah is undivided. Everything looked like smooth sailing until the Saudis expressed their reservations on Pakistan’s participation in the Summit and called for Pakistan’s PM on short notice. It was trumpeted by the government’s spokespersons that the visit was only to allay the concerns of the Saudis and there would be no change in the Plans of attending the summit. But the image of [a self-proclaimed] leader of Muslim Ummah was depreciated with the announcement of bowing out of the summit. With this statement, the hopes of undivided Muslim Countries were also dashed.

The annoyance of Sheikhdoms of KSA and the UAE with the summit can be related since these countries are among the active perpetrators of the middle-east crisis, which was also on the agenda of the summit. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the doing of these countries. The Chinese government also had concerns because the situation of Uighur camps was also to be discussed in the summit. It also showed the lapse in the Foreign Policy of Pakistan which didn’t see the Saudi interference coming in hindsight. An active foreign policy would call for allaying the concerns of its allies before accepting the invitation to the Summit. It [good policy] would also demand that not only Pakistani Leadership would participate in the summit (which was constituted with much fervor) but also urged the two Sheikdoms to do the same.

The umpteenth about-face of Pakistan’s leadership on the decision of not attending the summit would have far-reaching ramifications in the region as well as in the comity of Muslim Countries. Who would have imagined the first signatory of an agreement would bow out of the summit which was warranted by the said agreement? This step would also restrict the Pakistan’s role in the so-called mediation between KSA and Iran.

As of the sham excuses of staying neutral given by our Foreign Ministry, would Pakistan afford to by-cot any meeting of the Saudi led OIC? Only time will tell. But, the course of action must have been better thought out to handle the pressure from the Sheikhdoms and Chinese. If Pakistan’s PM thought he could successfully manage a diplomatic tightrope between Sheikhdoms on one side and Malaysia and Turkey on the other, a better- crafted plan should have been in place for such diplomatic finesse.

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