Govt urged to brief parliament on decision to skip Malaysia summit

Updated 20 Dec 2019


Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks on the National Assembly floor during a parliament sitting. — PM Imran's Instagram/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks on the National Assembly floor during a parliament sitting. — PM Imran's Instagram/File

ISLAMABAD: Criticising Prime Minister Imran Khan for cancelling his planned visit to Malaysia at the eleventh hour, the opposition has asked the government to brief parliament as to why Pakistan has decided to skip the Kuala Lumpur summit soon after the PM’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Terming it a "sensitive issue", PPP information secretary Dr Nafisa Shah, who is an outspoken member of the National Assembly, said in a statement on Wednesday that any decision made while keeping parliament in the dark would not be acceptable to the opposition.

“The cancellation of the Malaysia visit of the ‘selected prime minister’ is a very serious issue,” Dr Shah said and asked the government to bring the matter to parliament for a debate.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had announced on Tuesday that there would be no representation from Pakistan at the summit of some 20 Muslim countries which started in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Pakistan was one of the first countries with which Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad shared his plans for holding the summit when he met PM Khan along with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York in September.

PPP terms PM’s ‘secret decisions’ bad omen for Pakistan; PML-N believes the move shows Imran’s dithering conduct of foreign policy

Later, PM Khan formally conveyed his acceptance of the invitation for attending the summit when Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia Marzuki Bin Haji Yahya called on him in Islamabad on Nov 29.

After Imran Khan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, reportedly due to pressure exerted by the kingdom, which had extended a helping hand to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government during its early days to stave off economic crisis, the PM decided to stay away from the Kuala Lumpur summit.

FM Qureshi confirmed that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had concern about the summit, saying the two countries were worried that the event could cause “division in Ummah” and lead to setting up of an organisation parallel to the existing Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

In view of the reservations about the summit, Mr Qureshi said, it was decided that Pakistan would seek to bridge the gap between Riyadh and Kuala Lumpur and if that did not work there would be no participation in the summit.

PM Khan’s trip to Saudi Arabia, he said, was aimed at bringing Saudi Arabia and Malaysia closer and not for getting permission to attend the summit.

Dr Nafisa Shah, however, is of the view that as a nation, Pakistan should not be supporting any one side at the international level. She alleged that Prime Minister Khan was "taking every decision secretly" which did not bode well for the country.

Dr Shah said that the government should also tell parliament "what money is being taken by the government and on what conditions".

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA and former foreign minister Khurram Dastagir Khan also criticised the government for its “wavering foreign policy.”

"The cancellation of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Kuala Lumpur is the most recent example of his dithering and craven conduct of foreign policy, which is comforting Pakistan’s enemies and dismaying our friends," he said while talking to Dawn.

The PML-N leader said the “weak excuses” the prime minister had given “to justify” staying away from the Kuala Lumpur summit signified his “inability to balance Pakistan’s long-term foreign policy interests with temporary benefits”.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2019