Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has pulled out of an international summit for leaders of Muslim countries to be held in Malaysia over concerns it could “divide” the Muslim world, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said
Pakistan’s Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had expressed reservations over Islamabad joining the summit, hosted by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur.
Speaking to reporters in the capital on Tuesday, Qureshi confirmed that neither he nor Prime Minister Imran Khan would be attending the summit.
The four-day Kuala Lumpur Summit begins on Thursday and will include dozens of world leaders, intellectuals and scholars “to discuss and exchange ideas about the issues revolving in the Muslim world”.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mohamed’s office confirmed that his Pakistani counterpart had pulled out of the event. Khan also spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a major backer of the summit, on the sidelines of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva on Tuesday, a statement from Khan’s office said.
In Islamabad, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan had pulled out of the summit due to concerns by Saudi Arabia that the meeting could create a new bloc that would rival the existing 57-member state Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), its headquarters in Riyadh.
Pakistan’s pulling out from the summit came days after Prime Minister Khan visited Riyadh for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on a range of issues. Officials statements from the visit did not, however, mention the Kuala Lumpur summit.
Malaysia denies the summit is intended to rival the OIC.
“The KL Summit which is into its fifth edition is a Non-Governmental Organisation initiative, supported by the Malaysian Government and is not intended to create a new bloc as alluded to by some of its critics,” said Prime Minister Mohamed in a statement released on Tuesday.
“In addition, the Summit is not a platform to discuss about religion or religious affairs but specifically to address the state of affairs of the Muslim Ummah.”
The Malaysian prime minister said he explained this position to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud during a videoconference call on Tuesday.
Pakistani FM Qureshi said Pakistan’s pulling out of the summit demonstrated its “neutrality” in the dispute between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia over the issue.
Pakistan remains an active member of the OIC, where it has recently lobbied for the bloc to call for independent investigations into alleged rights abuses in Indian-administered Kashmir.