Pakistan will not attend the 46th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), which is being hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi today and tomorrow.
This was announced by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday during the joint session of parliament. Pakistan on Wednesday had officially conveyed to the OIC that it may have to boycott the foreign ministers conclave if the invitation extended to the Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to be guest of honour at its inaugural session is not withdrawn.
"I requested them [UAE] to review the decision [on invitation to India]. UAE said that when we extended the invitation, Pulwama had not occurred," Qureshi told lawmakers on Friday, adding that UAE officials said "it would be hard to retract the invitation".
"A joint resolution has been passed by the parliament, signed by all parties, which demands that Pakistan refrain from attending the OIC meeting. In light of this resolution, I will not attend the meeting," said Qureshi, amid near unanimous desk-thumping.
The foreign minister also informed the parliament that the OIC's secretary general as well as Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers had said that they were not consulted on the matter.
In a letter dated Feb 28 — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — Qureshi told the UAE foreign minister the invitation to India "was extended without consultation with member states and contrary to the rules of the OIC".
"India having conflict with at least one founding member state [...] is disqualified from any association with the OIC," says the letter, also informing Qureshi's counterpart that a resolution was passed on Thursday in the parliament which took exception to "India an egregious aggressor against Pakistan as well as Kashmiri people" being invited as a guest of honour.
The resolution demanded that Pakistan abstain completely [from the meeting] as a protest, the letter states. Qureshi, however, pointed out that there were 19 pending resolutions presented by Pakistan in the OIC — many of which concern the Kashmir issue. He said that a lower level delegation will be attending the meeting in order to represent Pakistan's stance and oppose any proposal to grant India an observer status. He further said that the Turkish foreign minister had termed it "unacceptable" for India to be granted an observer status in the OIC.
Backing Qureshi's announcement, Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif urged the UAE crown prince to withdraw the invitation to India.
"UAE crown prince’s father was a friend of Pakistan and crown prince too is very fond of Pakistan. In the light of tensions with India, we request him [to retract the invitation to Indian FM]," said Sharif and added that even if the crown prince does not withdraw the invitation to India, "Pakistan should employ all forums" to push its demand.
He lauded Turkey's support for Pakistan but hoped that other friendly countries would also extend their support "openly".
PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, however, said that Pakistan — being a founding member of OIC — should attend the meeting.
"I am a democratic man and if the house thinks that the foreign minister should not attend, then I won't say much. But disengagement is not a solution. The foreign minister should attend the OIC meeting. Pakistan should be represented there," Zardari said in the house and suggested that if the foreign minister did not think it appropriate to attend the meeting, he should send the foreign secretary.
He reminded the house that Pakistan was one of OIC's founding member and its ties with the body's members were older and stronger than that of India's.
"Our population is emotional, we are emotional and we think with emotions. Wars are fought against nations — if it comes to that, we are ready for war. But that should be the last resort. Soft diplomacy is the need of the hour," he added. The former president further said that the world dynamics had changed and, therefore, Pakistan must change its way of thinking as well.
Finance Minister Asad Umar started his address by praising the armed forces, adding that the entire parliament was standing united unlike its Indian counterpart.
"Military leadership’s job is to protect and defend the country. But political leadership’s responsibility is to ensure that such a situation does not emerge in the first place," said Umar. "I am proud that in the past 72 hours, Pakistani political leadership has displayed exemplary unity, whereas Indian politicians are divided. We do not see any divide among Pakistanis."
Like everyone in attendance, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman also started her speech by paying tribute to the armed forces. She lauded the political parties for "standing by their flag" at a time when India had committed an "act of war".
Rehman praised the prime minister's decision to release Indian pilot Abhinandan.
PML-N's Khawaja Asif welcomed the foreign minister's decision to not attend the OIC meeting. He said that it has been India's wish to become a part of OIC. "Today they have been invited as a guest, tomorrow they will be given the observer status and then they will become a member," he cautioned.
He further said that while the government had taken the right stance, the country needed to introspect and "convince the world that we do not condone terrorism". He pointed out that Pakistan has been combating terrorism for the past 17 years and was the only country that had successfully defeated militancy.
"The groups [created by the West] that were considered as assets have become our liabilities and we need to eliminate them," he insisted. "I said this at [a previous] Munich Security Conference that these [terrorists] were created and dumped on us by the [western powers]."
Reservation over invite to India
In his letter to OIC Secretary General Dr Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Qureshi said that Pakistan had asked the UAE to withdraw the invitation. Qureshi’s letter invited OIC’s attention towards the deteriorating security situation in the region after violation of the Line of Control (LoC) by India. He said Indian planes intruded Pakistani airspace from Muzaffarabad sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and were forced to fly back by the Pakistan Air Force.
The foreign minister had said the intrusion by India was not only violation of international laws but was an aggression that provided Pakistan the right to act in self-defence.
New Delhi had deliberately demonstrated war hysteria for mere political objectives, as elections were due in India within the next few months, he had said in his letter, adding that the people of India-occupied Kashmir were facing oppression. The latest Indian aggression was a threat to the regional peace, he said.