AS the foreign ministers of the OIC converge on Islamabad for an important conference, a heavy agenda awaits them. It is an important moment for Pakistan to be hosting this prestigious event in the capital at a time when the world is once again gripped with new global challenges in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While all eyes remain on this conflict and the new power dynamics it is unleashing, the situation in Afghanistan appears to have fallen out of the global news cycle.
What was only a few months ago the focus of the world’s attention has now been relegated to the margins of its priorities. Most countries may be able to afford this benign neglect but Pakistan is not among them. As the key stakeholder in Afghanistan, and sharing a long border with it, Pakistan gains the most by reminding the world that the situation in Afghanistan requires to be addressed by the international community.
The OIC meeting this week will be an important platform to reiterate the need for helping Afghanistan recover from decades of conflict. The member nations of the OIC share a responsibility to raise their collective voice and also back their demands with material and practical steps to improve the situation in Afghanistan.
Hope, however, should be tempered with reality. At the best of times, the OIC has not been an effective body in global affairs. Despite its large membership that includes countries flush with petro dollars, the OIC has appeared to be more of a paper tiger that has been able to achieve precious little on Muslim causes like Kashmir and Palestine. It has struggled to formulate unified positions or take a collective stance on these and other issues that require the Islamic bloc to speak as one.
That said, the OIC can still do a lot by focusing on issues like health, education and poverty that plague most of its member states. This would require concerted efforts by the organisation to take stock of its strengths and weaknesses so that it can make contributions that translate into tangible outcomes. The OIC needs dynamic leadership that can set priorities, mark objectives and deliver results on set timelines. The Islamabad meeting would provide a good opportunity to come up with a message that the OIC, despite all its failings, can still be an effective platform for the Muslims of the world.
Pakistan’s success in raising the issue of Islamophobia in the world — evidenced by the UN designation of an anti-Islamophobia day — should set a good example of how Muslim nations can set an agenda if they do it the right way. This week’s meeting will therefore be watched closely for signs that the organisation is willing to improve its performance and become a platform that is globally recognised as the voice of the Muslim community.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022