Pakistan says it will call on a meeting of Islamic counties, with or without Riyadh, to discuss Kashmir where Muslims are “facing atrocities” if the Saudi Arabian-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) fails to convene a meeting on the issue.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday called on Saudi Arabia to convene a meeting of the OIC council of foreign ministers.
If the Saudis refuse to “play their role, then I will ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to go ahead with or without Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Islamabad “will be compelled to ask the prime ministers to call a meeting of Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims.”
Whether a sign of worsening relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia or not, the announcement is certainly a testimony to the kingdom’s further isolation amid Muslim states’ increasing frustration with Riyadh’s warming ties with Israel which has very close ties with India – a nemesis of Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia has always been at pains to keep nuclear power Pakistan on board as it has undertaken a series of adventurist policies in Yemen and elsewhere.
Pakistan, which is engaged in a dispute with India over Kashmir, has long been pushing for the foreign ministers’ meeting of the 57-member bloc of Muslim countries, which is the second largest intergovernmental body after the UN.
Riyadh, however, has turned down the request.
Qureshi further called on the OIC to make known its stance regarding the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan is a founding member of the OIC and has had longstanding cooperative relations with the member states of the bloc.
Last year, Islamabad had to skip a summit of Muslim countries in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among others.
Qureshi admitted that Pakistan withdrew from the three-day summit under pressure from Riyadh.
Qureshi has repeatedly praised Turkey, Malaysia and Iran for standing up for the people of Kashmir and their rights.
Analysts said at the time Saudi Arabia prevented Khan’s participation because it thought the Malaysia summit was meant to replace the OIC, which is traditionally dominated by Riyadh, and further isolate the kingdom.
Malaysia’s then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, said at the time that Prime Minister Khan had expressed his regret at not being able to attend the 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit .
He also asserted that the summit was not meant to replace the OIC.
Earlier this year, Riyadh abused its privilege as the host of the OIC again, barring an Iranian delegation from taking part in an emergency meeting of the bloc in the city of Jeddah.