Asia - Pacific

Pakistan's pullout from Malaysia summit draws criticism

Islamabad withdraws last minute amid pressure from Saudi Arabia, UAE

Amir Latif   | 19.12.2019
Pakistan's pullout from Malaysia summit draws criticism

KARACHI, Pakistan 

Pakistan's last minute decision to pull out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit has drawn criticism with some defending the withdrawal by the cash-strapped Islamabad that financially depends on oil-rich Gulf states.

Prime Minister Imran Khan canceled his planned visit to the Malaysian capital to attend the summit after concerns from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed on Tuesday, according to local English daily Dawn.

Khan paid a daylong visit to Riyadh earlier this week in a vain bid to assuage the kingdom's reservations over the scheduled summit.

Leaders from Muslim countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur to discuss issues confronting the Muslims globally at the summit, which started on Wednesday and will continue till Saturday.

"It's an internal diplomatic failure," said Abdul Basit, a former Pakistani ambassador told Anadolu Agency, adding that Islamabad should have done its homework before committing to such an initiative.

He said Pakistan should not have skipped the initiative even if it meant sending a lower-level delegation.

Retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, an Islamabad-based security analyst, echoed the view observing that the Kuala Lumpur initiative has upset Riyadh which views its as an attempt to replace the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

"It shows the lack of understanding on the part of the prime minister. He should not have committed what he could not do,” Masood told Anadolu Agency.


No effect on ties

Both analysts, Basit and Masood, said that Pakistan’s move would not affect its ties with Turkey, Malaysia and Iran, which support Pakistan’s stand on disputed Jammu and Kashmir following India’s scrapping of the region’s longstanding special rights in August.

Khan on Tuesday met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a global conference in Geneva and took him into confidence over his decision to not attend the Malaysia summit, local media reported, citing Foreign Ministry sources.

Also, Khan telephoned his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mahamad and expressed his regrets at not being able to attend the summit, local English daily The News reported.

Politicians and journalists took to social media sites to denounce Khan’s decision to skip the summit.

“Backing out from KL summit: when Turkey, Malaysia, Iran supported Pakistan on Kashmir like a rock," Senator Mushahid Hussain, a senior leader of main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said in a tweet.

“Terrible news Imran Khan’s Malaysia visit is canceled on the orders of Mohammad bin Salman,” senior journalist Umar Cheema tweeted, referring to the Saudi crown prince.

Khan's decision "reflects the weakness and incompetence of Pakistan's foreign policy managers, whether it's Imran Khan and his team, or Pakistan Foreign Office or the military," said Ijaz Khan, an Islamabad-based professor on international relations.

"He/they should have realized the reaction of Saudi Arabia to any such summit and not agreed to participation before it's announcement," Khan told Anadolu Agency.

"By declining to participate after it's announcement, will have a negative impact on Pakistan's relations with, not just Iran, but much more with Malaysia and Turkey.

"This is more so, after both [Malaysian Prime Minister] Mahathir [Mohamad] and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan so strongly supported Pakistan, after Imran Khan's speech at UNGA. The decision for this summit was taken after that UNGA meeting, where Khan met the other two," he added.

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