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Pakistan has decided to completely withdraw from participating in the Kuala Lumpur (KL) Summit and not downgrade its participation. Talking to leading media owners at the ISI's Margalla Mess, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in the presence of DG ISI Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, said that Pakistan will not participate in the KL summit, citing Saudi Arabia's concerns over the moot scheduled from 18-20 December 2019 at the Malaysian capital.
The Foreign Minister in response to a query stated that he will also not attend the summit after Prime Minister Imran Khan excused himself from participating in the moot and defended the decision by stating that millions of Pakistanis are residing in Arab states who are contributing significantly in the country's economy by sending remittances.
When asked whether China is on board on the decision, the foreign minister said: "such decisions are taken after prior consultations with China. We would like all these countries including China for FATF," he added.
"Saudi Arabia has shown its concerns over the Summit, as it believes that it may divide the Ummah...there will be no participation [in KL summit], neither at the Prime Minister nor at the Foreign Minister's level," Qureshi said, adding that the Malaysian side has been conveyed at the highest level about Pakistan's decision. "They [Malaysia] understand our position," he added.
The Foreign Minister asserted that Pakistan has 'best' relations with both Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, adding that Pakistan has always played a role for the unity of the Muslim Ummah and 'we want to keep the balance'.
Qureshi acknowledged that Malaysia, Turkey and Iran are the only countries that supported Pakistan's stance on the issue of Kashmir, especially following Indian government's illegal and unilateral annexation of Kashmir.
"Saudi Arabia has supported Pakistan generously in providing a helping hand for balance of payment support", the Foreign Minister said referring to the Saudi $ 3 billion balance of payment support loan and another $3.2 billion in deferred oil payment facility for three years.
The Foreign Minister referred to the situation in Kashmir which is gaining international attention for the first time in decades and the post-Citizen Act demonstrations across India have provided a new impetus to raising the issue internationally.
He said that he has written to President of UN Security Council in which he has indicated that India has broken the fencing wire on the Line of Control at five places with the express purpose of maligning Pakistan internationally by falsely claiming terrorist infiltration from across the border.
Qureshi also referred to the Afghan peace process, saying that it has entered a critical stage, adding that there are 'spoilers' who are trying to sabotage the peace process. Naming India, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the RAW-NDS nexus as the 'spoilers', he said Pakistan informed the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Lindsey Graham during their recent visit to the country.
Sources privy to the decision of the Khan administration not to attend the KL summit said on condition of anonymity that the decision was taken after high level consultation following Prime Minister Khan's visit to Saudi Arabia and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa's visit to United Arab Eremites (UAE) on December 14.
On December 6, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, while speaking at his weekly media briefing, announced that on the invitation of Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister Imran Khan will be participating in the KL Summit, due to take place in Kuala Lumpur from 18-20 December 2019.
The KL Summit is an initiative of Malaysian Prime Minister together with the participation of leaders, scholars and intellectuals. It is a platform to exchange views on the current challenges and to work together to address them.
"I am really surprised to see...Pakistan, being a nuclear power has become a 'joke'. It is very sad that Pakistan has become so weak internally and externally that others will dictate how to pursue our foreign policy," said Lt-Gen Talat Masood (retd).
"Our economic vulnerability is dictating our foreign policy, especially the Saudi influence on our decisions with regard to foreign policy issues is due to the reason that our economy is heavily dependent on them," he further said.
He pointed out that Malaysia has openly supported Pakistan's stance on Kashmir when the Arab countries were completely silent on the Modi government's atrocities in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
"What message are we sending to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad who repeatedly expressed his support on Kashmir despite the recent setbacks to Malaysia's export to India for supporting Pakistan on its Kashmir cause?" he asked.
Executive Director, Center for International Strategic Studies (CISS), Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi (retd), described the government's decision not to attend the KL summit as an unfortunate decision, saying that it will have repercussions for the support Pakistan has already gained for the Kashmir cause in the countries that are participating in the Summit.
He pointed out that countries such as Turkey and Iran have supported the Kashmiri people and Pakistan's stance on Kashmir dispute following Modi government's illegal and unilateral steps of August 5, 2019 Kashmir annexation. "I understand the Summit is not against any country in the region or beyond, but it's an initiative of Mahathir Mohammad and one of its features is to deliberate on the strategy to deal with the rising Islamophobia in the West," he said.
AFP adds: Malaysia will this week host a summit of Muslim leaders billed as a forum to look at the Islamic world's problems, but it will be closely watched for Middle East power plays and their stance on China's Uighur minority.
Leaders from Iran, Turkey, and Qatar will be among hundreds of delegates attending the three-day event set to discuss myriad challenges faced by Muslims.
The summit has been pushed by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has long championed greater solidarity among the world's Islamic communities - and wants to boost his country's standing on the international stage.
In a statement ahead of the forum, Mahathir's office said the Muslim community was suffering due to "the incarceration of millions (who) are placed in detention camps, civil wars resulting in total destruction of cities... the rise of Islamophobia".
With no high-level Saudi delegation coming but the President of arch-rival Iran and the emir of Qatar - under a Riyadh-led blockade - in attendance, there has been speculation the forum could be used to counter the kingdom's influence.
Also present is Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ties with Riyadh have worsened in recent times.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman was invited but is not coming, Malaysian officials say.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of high tensions between the kingdom and Iran, the Middle East's leading Sunni and Shia powers, after assaults on oil tankers and installations in the Gulf.
Analysts Giorgio Cafiero and Khalid Al-Jaber, in a commentary for the Middle East Institute think-tank, said some Muslim-majority countries were uncomfortable with Saudi Arabia due to de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's rise.
The Kuala Lumpur summit could "serve as an alternative to the Jeddah-headquartered Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which is under Saudi Arabia's de facto leadership", they said.
But Mahathir's office swiftly rejected the suggestion, insisting the summit "is not intended to create a new bloc".
There have however been signs Riyadh is unhappy about the event, with Prime Minister Imran Khan cancelling his attendance after travelling to the kingdom at the weekend, reportedly to assuage his ally's concerns.
While calls have been growing for the summit to address the Uighurs' plight, analysts believe leaders are unlikely to take a hard line for fear of damaging vital economic ties with Beijing.
They are seen as more likely to condemn the treatment of Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar - who fled their mostly Buddhist homeland in droves in 2017 after a bloody military crackdown - and the Palestinians, which would come at a lower cost.
Following the summit, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani heads to Japan on Friday in the first trip to the country by an Iranian head of state for two decades, official news agency IRNA reported.
For 94-year-old Mahathir, the world's oldest leader and in his second stint as premier, the most important outcome could be boosting Malaysia's international reputation which suffered under a corruption-mired regime that was ousted last year.
The summit is "a vehicle to return (Mahathir) and Malaysia into a position of prominence in the Islamic world," said Shahriman Lockman, an analyst from Malaysian think-tank the Institute of Strategic and International Studies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019