Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided against participating in this week’s Kuala Lumpur Summit, according to a statement issued on Tuesday by the Prime Minister’s Office of Malaysia.
In a statement posted on its official website, the Prime Minister’s Office said that P.M. Khan had called his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir bin Mohamad on Dec. 16 (Monday). “Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his regrets for not being able to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit,” it said, adding, “Dr. Mahathir appreciates Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call to inform of his inability to attend the summit where the Pakistani leader was expected to speak and share his thoughts on the state of affairs of the Islamic world.”
The statement also sought to dismiss speculation that the Kuala Lumpur Summit was intended to replace the Saudi Arabia-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation. “Dr. Mahathir would also like to correct some misinformation as was reported in Pakistan Today that alleged Dr. Mahathir as saying that the KL Summit was intended to be a platform to replace the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” it said, noting the Summit was a NGO initiative and did not seek any new bloc. “The Summit is not a platform to discuss about religion or religious affairs but specifically to address the state of affairs of the Muslim Ummah,” it added.
The summit, beginning on Dec. 18 and continuing through Dec. 21, would be attended by over 400 Muslim leaders, intellectuals, scholars and thinkers from 52 countries. The Malaysian statement states that one of its goals is to combat the oppression faced by the Ummah globally, with special reference to Islamophobia and illegal detention camps. P.M. Khan has repeatedly cited rehabilitating the image of the Ummah a personal mission, making his decision to skip the Summit even more curious.
Just a few short months ago, in September, Khan had met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in which he had expressed a desire to work with both nations to improve the image of Muslims globally. Even as recently as last week, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government was taking pains to present the Summit as a major force for good.
Also, unlike Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that Khan’s decision appears to favor, both Turkey and Malaysia have backed his principled stance on India’s actions in Kashmir. His decision to skip the event has raised eyebrows over his sincerity to the Kashmir cause among some independent observers.
On Monday, following Khan’s last-minute trip to Saudi Arabia during which he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters that the final decision on Khan’s participation in the event would be taken after he returned from a trip abroad. The Malaysian statement contradicts this stance, proving Khan had made his decision not to attend as early as Monday when Awan was claiming otherwise.
Local media has reported that the decision was forced by Saudi Arabia, which is exercising the greater influence it enjoys over Khan due to the hefty loans it has granted his government, as the Gulf kingdom believes the Summit would diminish its role among the Muslim Ummah.