Pak PM to skip Kuala Lumpur Summit due to Saudi pressure: sources

Pak PM to skip Kuala Lumpur Summit due to Saudi pressure sources

ISLAMABAD: In a major diplomatic debacle, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to skip the Kuala Lumpur Summit due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.

Khan was scheduled to share the stage with leaders from Iran, Turkey and Qatar during the three-day summit beginning on Wednesday. The Pakistani leader made a telephonic call to Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohammad and informed him about his decision, according to the Malaysian government.

Sources here said Pakistan decided to skip the summit after Saudi Arabia made it clear that Riyadh was against the summit of Muslim nations evolving into a group rivalling the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is dominated by the Gulf Kingdom.

The Saudis and Emirati leaders also objected that Pakistan would be sharing the stage with Iran and Qatar, seen as challengers to their dominance in the region, according to sources. Initially, Pakistan was willing to send Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to represent Prime Minister Khan at the summit but officials said that it was decided to stay away from the event for the sake of the country’s “core national interests”.

Khan travelled to Riyadh over the weekend while army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa went to the UAE to persuade the leaders of the two Arab nations not to oppose Pakistan’s participation in the summit but apparently both came back empty handed, sources said.

“It is a major diplomatic failure as Malaysia, Iran and Turkey had solidly supported Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir,” according to diplomatic sources. They said Pakistan was heavily dependent on the financial support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both countries have pledged more than USD 6 billion to cash-strapped Pakistan to meet its economic challenges.

Riyadh has also promised to invest more than USD 20 billion in Pakistan, including setting up an oil refinery, while UAE is planning similar investment in coming years. Meanwhile, opposition leaders lashed out at the Khan government’s decision to skip the conference after making a commitment to attend it. PTI

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