ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s decision to not attend the upcoming Kuala Lumpur Summit in Malaysia was taken out of the desire to mitigate differences between Malaysia and the gulf countries, Pakistan Today has learnt.
A highly placed source told Pakistan Today that the leaderships of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other gulf countries had conveyed their concerns over the purpose and scope of the Kuala Lumpur Summit, which the Pakistani government had taken into consideration.
It merits mention here that contrary to the media’s assumption that in the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi would represent Pakistan, Pakistan had decided to not send its delegation to Kuala Lumpur altogether, the official claimed.
“The paradigm shift is that Pakistan will not become part of any bloc within the Muslim world but would rather work to mitigate differences among Muslim countries,” the official said.
“It is in view of this policy that we have decided to step back from the KL summit. It was a difficult decision but we have taken it as we want to bridge the gap within the Muslim world,” he said.
The official refuted the claim that Pakistan’s decision to skip the KL summit would sour relations between Islamabad and Kuala Lumpur, adding that PM Imran Khan and FM Qureshi had conveyed Pakistan’s decision to the Malaysian prime minister who understood Pakistan’s position.
“PM Imran called his Malaysian counterpart last night and informed him of his decision to not attend the summit; Dr Mahathir said that he understands Pakistan’s position and the conversation ended on a cordial note,” he said.
“In a bid to remove misunderstandings between the two sides, Pakistan had earlier even urged Dr Mahathir to visit Riyadh and address Saudi concerns, to which the Malaysian prime minister agreed and proposed to visit Riyadh on December 6, but could not do so due to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting being held on that date,” the official said.
The official said that according to the Malaysian PM, the KL Summit is in no way an alternative to the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) but is instead a forum to explore solutions to issues faced by the Muslim Ummah.
He said that Pakistan and Malaysia’s relationship has gained new impetus since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office since both heads of government (Pakistan and Malaysia) respect each other and have a personal relationship.
“The PM had responded positively to President Erdogan and Prime Minister Mahathir’s offer of joining the KL summit and also floated the idea of a joint television project. However, some Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and UAE raised concerns over the objectives of the summit and since we don’t want divisions within the Muslim Ummah we have decided not to attend the summit altogether,” he added.
“We have also conveyed our decision to Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and they have appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to defuse tensions in the neighbourhood,” the official said.
The source further clarified that the KL Summit was not the first of its kind: “The first summit was convened in 2014 under a non-government organisation run by Mahathir Mohammad. This is the first time that this summit is being convened by the Malaysian government, however,” the source said.
PAKISTAN ON PATH OF ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY
The official said that Pakistan is pursuing the path of economic diplomacy where economic interests are paid special attention to in all decisions.
When Pakistan Today asked whether the rollover of $5 billion was the reason for Pakistan’s decision to skip the KL Summit, the official said that the rollover decision had been taken last year.
“Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia transcends economic considerations, but even if you look solely at our economic relations with the kingdom, over two million of our citizens work in Saudi Arabia alone. Pakistani ex-pats working in KSA and UAE send back US$9 billion each year, which only increases the complexities in relations with countries in the region.”