ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan is unlikely to attend the Malaysia-led Kuala Lumpur summit this week amid reservation by key ally Saudi Arabia.

Senior government officials told The Nation that a final decision was yet to be taken but PM Khan will “most probably” not attend the summit in Malaysia.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is expected to represent Pakistan in the absence of Prime Minister who flies to Geneva today (December 17) to attend the first-ever Global Refugee Forum commencing.

The foreign ministry had earlier announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan will participate in the ‘Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019’ due to take place in Malaysia from December 18 to 21 on the invitation of his Malaysian counterpart Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said the Kuala Lumpur Summit was an initiative of the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad 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.

FM Qureshi may represent Pakistan

However, yesterday, there was no confirmation either from the foreign ministry or the close aides of the Prime Minister regarding his visit to Malaysia.

On the condition of anonymity the close aides of the PM said Imran Khan did not want to annoy Saudi Arabia who leads the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Saudi leaders ostensibly told Imran Khan not to ‘divide’ the OIC when he visited the Kingdom last day.

Foreign Minister Qureshi later said there was no misunderstanding between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia rather the incumbent government had removed the ones created in the past. He said the elements desiring to disintegrate the Muslim world are creating such perceptions.

About the perception of Kuala Lumpur Summit being raised as a parallel platform or against the OIC, he said it was not being held for the first time, rather Mahathir Muhammad had already organised such four sessions as his private initiative before assuming the office of the Malaysian Prime Minister.

He said that Mahathir Mohammed had sent his Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia to extend a formal invitation for the summit considering it a very vital member of the Muslim world.

He said such perceptions were being created and fanned by the elements who have reservations over the Muslim countries joining heads to discuss their socioeconomic development and exploit their potential in the fields of skills and technology.

Qureshi said that having cordial ties with Saudi Arabia and Malaysia and being an OIC’s founding member, Pakistan was supposed to play its role to improve the strained ties between the Muslim countries.

Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally saw off Prime Minister Khan at the Riyadh International Airport after talks. The PM was in Riyadh for a one-day visit.

PM Khan called for resolving the Middle East disputes and differences through diplomatic means. He emphasized upon the strategic importance of Pakistan-Saudi relationship and termed it a pivotal partnership for peace, progress and prosperity.

The ‘Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019’ in Malaysia affords tremendously high economic, political, social and strategic opportunities to the Muslim world in general and Pakistan in particular.

The summit being an outcome of troika of Muslim states, notably Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan, aspires to rope in more Muslim-majority countries under its umbrella with the passage of time.

Interestingly, the major Arab Muslim states - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt - have not been made part of this group. The likely participation of states considered hostile to Saudi Arabia, like Qatar and Iran, has dramatically given birth to Saudi reservations about the agenda of the summit.

Pakistan, by virtue of its deep Islamic, cultural and economic ties with Riyadh, finds an increasingly challenging path ahead while charting out its foreign policy priorities.

Pakistan, however, for a number of reasons is bound to move ahead to play a pioneering role in the summit since, many issues on the summit’s agenda, notably countering Islamophobia, Kashmir crisis and strategic priorities of Islamabad are concerned.

This month, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistan stood in full support of the Kuala Lumpur Summit, launched by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad to bring together five Muslim-majority countries to collaborate on socio-economic development.

Speaking at the second Ministerial meeting of the Kuala Lumpur Summit, held in Doha, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that the challenges of climate change, terrorism, governance, development and the surge in Islamaphobia warrant a comprehensive and integrated response. Yesterday, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gifted Prime Minister Imran Khan a new car. The car is made by Malaysian automobile maker Proton. The X70 was launched in December 2018 and its cheapest variant costs Rs 3.7 million.

The ceremony to gift the car was held at the Malaysian High Commission. High Commissioner Ikram Mohammad Ibrahim, PM’s Assistant on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood and other officials attended the event.

Dawood received the gift on behalf of the Prime Minister. Ibrahim spoke about the relationship between Malaysia and Pakistan and said the two countries had been brothers since 1947.

The Malaysian High Commissioner said a meeting of the Pak-Malaysia trade mission will be held in Islamabad soon. He said the trade volume between the two countries is valued at $1.1 billion, which will increase.