ISLAMABAD: Over six weeks after his last-minute pull-out from a summit in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Imran Khan, along with a delegation comprising his cabinet members and senior officials, is leaving for Malaysia on Monday (today) on a two-day official tour on an invitation of Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad.

PM Khan would have one-on-one discussion with his Malaysian counterpart, besides holding several meetings on issues related to bilateral and regional interests, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Dawn on Sunday.

They are expected to witness the signing of important agreements and memoranda of understanding after delegation-level talks, acco­rding to an official statement issued by the PM Office. The two leaders would also have a joint press stakeout, the statement added.

The two sides are expected to work out modalities for hiring of Pakistani security guards after Malaysia had stopped recruiting low-skilled workers from some other countries. Islamabad may also discuss with Kuala Lumpur the tripartite plan to launch a joint English language TV channel by Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey.

Mr Qureshi said: “Prime Minister can discuss anything with the Malaysian leadership, including the launch of a joint TV channel.”

In reply to a question, the minister denied the reports that the TV channel plan had been dropped and said: “There is nothing being added [to] or dropped [from] the plan.” He said everyone was aware that most of the posts on social media were fake and baseless. He made it clear that the plan to launch the TV channel by Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey was intact.

PM Khan had announced the decision to launch an international TV channel after his trilateral meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2019. The main objective behind the joint TV channel plan was to confront Islamophobia and anti-Muslim “propaganda”.

According to the PM Office statement, PM Khan will address a think-tank event organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia during his trip. It said the visit was another sign of robust engagement between Pakistan and Malaysia and the shared commitment to further fortify the strategic partnership between the two countries.

This is PM Khan’s second visit to Malaysia since assuming office in August 2018, as he had visited the country earlier on Nov 20 and 21, 2018 but skipped Kuala Lumpur Summit held in December 2019 amid reported pressure from Saudi Arabia. While Riyadh denied exerting of any such pressure on Islamabad to skip the event, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Pakistan did not attend the summit due to Saudi pressure. Despite his last-minute withdrawal from the summit, both Turkey and Malaysia had backed Mr Khan’s principled stance on human rights violations by India in Kashmir.

Pakistan and Malaysia enjoy close, cordial ties based on commonalities of faith and culture and marked by exceptional mutual trust and understanding, the PM Office statement added.

In line with the vision of the leadership of both countries, bilateral ties deepened in recent years, leading to closer cooperation in the sphere of trade, investment, industry, defence, education and in various international forums, it said.

The visit of the prime minister will provide an opportunity to review the full spectrum of bilateral relations and reaffirm Pakistan’s resolve to forge a robust economic relationship with Malaysia and further expand the existing broad-based, long-term and enduring cooperation.

During his various interactions, the PM will underline Pakistan’s positive contribution to regional and international peace and security. Mr Khan will also highlight the dire human rights situation in India-held Jammu and Kashmir, emphasize the importance of averting risks to regional peace and stability posed by Indian belligerence, and underscore the importance of peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The visit of PM Khan is believed to be quite significant in the backdrop of recent decision of Arab League that rejected US President Donald Trump’s new plan on Palestine. During the last PM visit to Malaysia, the two sides had exchanged views on the situation in Palestine and in the Rakhine State, Myanmar involving Rohingya Muslims. On the Palestinian issue, both countries agreed to contribute positively at other forums, especially in the OIC Committee of Six on Palestine, of which Malaysia and Pakistan are members.

During his two-day tour the PM will be accompanied by the foreign minister, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari and senior government officials.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Malaysia Amna Baloch told state-run news agency APP that Malaysia was negotiating with Pakistan to hire security guards after it had stopped hiring low-skilled workers from other countries. She said modalities to formalise the hiring process were being worked out. A senior officer from the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development confirmed the development and said Malaysia had a potential to recruit 100,000 to 150,000 Pakistani security guards.

The officer said Islamabad was also in talks with Malaysian authorities to regulate welfare process of intending immigrants in Malaysia. An MoU granting Pakistani workers equal rights as being provided to Malaysian workers is also expected to be signed, according to him.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2020