Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced on Friday he would not be attending the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers to protest India’s presence.
Addressing Parliament, Qureshi said that he would abide by a joint resolution demanding Islamabad not attend the OIC meeting. “I will not attend Council of Foreign Ministers as a matter of principle for [them] having extended invitation as a Guest of Honor to [Indian foreign affairs minister] Sushma Swaraj,” he said. However, he added, a Pakistani delegation would be in attendance at the moot to present and highlight Pakistan’s stance, including the persecution of Kashmiris in India-Occupied Kashmir.
India has been invited for the first time to the meeting of the OIC, an influential grouping of 57 Islamic countries, as the guest of honor.
Qureshi said he had written a letter to OIC on Thursday urging them to retract Swaraj’s invitation, adding that he had made it clear he would not attend if India participated. He said the U.A.E., where the meeting is taking place, had replied that rescinding the invitation would be difficult as it had been delivered prior to the Pulwama attack that left 40 Indian soldiers dead. Claimed by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad but perpetrated by a local, the Feb. 14 attack led to the Feb. 26 intrusion by the Indian Air Force over undisputed Pakistani territory. Pakistan retaliated on Feb. 27, resulting in an Indian Air Force jet being downed and a pilot being captured.
Responding to Qureshi’s decision, Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari said that while he accepted Parliament’s wishes on the matter, he felt diplomacy was the need of the hour. “Disengagement is not a solution,” he said, adding, “The foreign minister should attend the OIC meeting. Pakistan should be represented there.”