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Fewer Muslim leaders visited Pakistan since ’08

October 14, 2012

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in his address to the specially convened joint sitting of the parliament, hoped that ‘Pakistan will leave behind its troublesome days’ through national reconciliation and solidarity. — Photo by APP/File

ISLAMABAD, Oct 14: Let alone leaders of the western world, leadership of the Muslim countries has also largely stayed away from Pakistan since the PPP-led government took over in 2008.

On the contrary, several Muslim countries have been visited by President Asif Ali Zardari as the head of state and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as the head of government during the last four years.

Although the Foreign Office painted a rosy picture of the country’s trustworthy and ever-lasting brotherly relations with the Muslim world, details it placed before the National Assembly recently indicated that Pakistan throughout this period had failed to attract the leaders of Muslim countries.

Starting with Saudi Arabia, the FO document said the president visited the country twice and the prime minister three times during 2008-12.

In response, Saudi Minister for Information and Culture Abdulaziz Khoja and Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, the Deputy Foreign Minister, travelled to the country.

The most favoured destination of the Pakistani leaders remains the United Arab Emirates. The Foreign Office recorded five official visits by President Zardari and one by the prime minister.

In return, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited the country in November last year.

The president visited Kuwait twice and the prime minister once, but no high-level dignitary from the oil-rich country came to Pakistan.

For Oman and Qatar, statistics on high-level bilateral visits didn’t say anything different. The two countries were visited once each by the president and the prime minister.

In response, only a senior member of Qatar’s ruling family visited the country to present a cheque for Rs400 million for flood relief.

The prime minister visited Malaysia in July 2008 and Samy Vellu, special envoy of the Malaysian prime minister, came to the country in February this year.

The only high-level visit between Indonesia and Pakistan was that of Indonesian defence minister’s who came to Pakistan in September this year.

President Zardari went to Bahrain in August last year.

The prime minister visited Egypt in 2008 and 2009 to attend the World Economic Forum in Cairo.

The president visited Jordan in October last year. In January 2010, he went to Syria and also had a stop-over in that country in August 2010.

Mr Zardari travelled to Libya in April 2009. The visit was followed by the prime minister’s in September the same year at the invitation of the late Col Muammar Qadhafi.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Pakistan in February 2010.

The FO’s document didn’t mention high-level bilateral visits by leaders of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai came to Islamabad more than once and Iranian President Ahmadinejad visited Pakistan in February this year.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Islamabad in March 2010, followed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s trip in May this year.

Both the Pakistani president and the prime minister have regularly visited Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey.

Dr Nazir Hussain, who teaches international relations at the Quaid-i-Azam University, says that geo-strategic position, particularly that of the Muslim world, has changed in recent years and every country has its own interests to look after.

“For example,” he explains, “if Pakistan is showing its keenness in the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project, Saudi Arabia and other countries in its (Pakistan’s) camp have expressed reservations over it, which is then reflected in high-level bilateral visits between the countries.”

Moreover, Dr Hussain said, the so-called Arab Spring and the ongoing Syrian crisis had also put the Muslim countries in various leagues, and their leaders were in the process of re-alignment.

In response to a question, he said in the realm of international relations, high-level visits mattered a lot.