Turkish president tells media Gulf kingdom threatened to deport Pakistani workers and replace them with Bangladeshis
Saudi Arabia pressured Pakistan into withdrawing from the Kuala Lumpur Summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Turkish media, according to a report published in the pro-government Daily Sabah.
Prior to returning to Turkey from Malaysia, the Turkish leader met with media representatives for a wide-ranging talk on the summit, its impact and the Muslim world. Sabah reported that Erdogan said he would have liked to have both Pakistan and Indonesia represented at the summit, but their absence could not be helped under threats from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan,” Erdogan told Turkish media. “Now, there are promises that the country has given to Pakistan regarding the central bank. However, more than that, there are 4 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia. They [threaten by saying that they] would send [Pakistanis] back and re-employ Bangladeshi people instead,” he said, adding that the Gulf kingdom had also issued similar threats to withdraw money deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan if Islamabad attended the Kuala Lumpur Summit.
The Turkish president said this wasn’t the first time Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. had pressured other countries to adhere to their demands. He said Pakistan had to obey Saudi demands because of its economic difficulties, and implied that Indonesia also suffered from similar problems.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Friday however claimed, once again, that Pakistan skipped the Kuala Lumpur summit because there wasn’t enough time to address all the concerns of “major Muslim countries” over divisions in the Muslim Ummah. “Pakistan will continue to work for the unity and solidarity of the Ummah, which is indispensable for effectively addressing the challenges faced by the Muslim world,” the FO spokesperson said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad originally floated the idea of the summit on the sidelines of this year’s United Nations General Assembly session in New York during a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan and Erdogan.
Khan formally accepted the invitation to attend the summit on Nov. 29, but less than a week before the summit was set to start, rumors started circulating that Saudi Arabia had expressed displeasure over it, believing it was intended to replace the Gulf kingdom-led Organization for Islamic Cooperation.
On Dec. 14, Khan traveled to Saudi Arabia and held one-on-one meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At the time, government spokespeople said the final decision to attend the Kuala Lumpur summit had not yet been taken and would be achieved with consensus after he returned from his trip abroad on Dec. 17. However, a statement issued by the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office forced Islamabad’s hand, confirming that Khan had withdrawn from the summit under pressure from Saudi Arabia, which was now pulling the strings that had come attached to the $6 billion it had loaned the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government last year—an amount Khan had claimed would save Pakistan from seeking an IMF loan. It did not.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was the one who claimed that the withdrawal had come about not under pressure, but because Islamabad wished to resolve the concerns Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. had about it and its possible impact on the “Ummah.” Prime Minister Imran Khan’s trip to the kingdom was aimed at encouraging collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia and not to seek permission for the summit, he had claimed.
Erdogan’s statement suggests Qureshi—and by proxy Khan—were not entirely truthful about the events that led to Pakistan’s exit from the summit.
The Kuala Lumpur Summit, held from Dec. 18 to Dec. 21, was a global platform for dialogue that brought together Muslim leaders, intellectuals and scholars to produce solutions to problems faced by Muslims. It focused on issues such as development and sovereignty, integrity and good governance, culture and identity, justice and freedom, peace, security and defense, and technology and internet governance.