Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saturday (Dec 21) confirmed what was reported by media earlier that Saudi Arabia pressured Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to boycott the Kuala Lumpur mini Islamic summit called by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad from December 18 to 21.
Interestingly, Pakistan was one of the first countries with which Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad shared his plans for holding the summit when he met Prime Minister Imran Khan along with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York in September last.
Turkish President Erdogan was quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia threatened Pakistan with extreme measures, including the imposition of economic sanctions on the country and deportation of its citizens working in the Kingdom, to stop it from attending the Kuala Lumpur Summit.
"Unfortunately, we see that Saudi Arabia pressures Pakistan. 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," Erdogan was quoted as saying by Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah. The comments regarding the non-participation of Pakistan in the summit were made by the Turkish president in a conversation with journalists in Kuala Lumpur.
According to the Sabah report, Erdogan said it was not the first time that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had put pressure on a country for doing or not doing certain things. He added that the kingdom has also threatened to withdraw money it had deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia denies pressurizing Pakistan
Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia denied Saturday that it pressurized and threatened Pakistan to refrain from participating in the Kuala Lumpur Summit.
A press release issued by the Saudi embassy in Islamabad said: "The embassy affirms that the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Pakistan are superior to the language of threat.
"The brotherly relations between the countries are long-standing and strategic based on trust, understanding and mutual respect, and the two countries enjoy a consensus of views on most regional and international issues, especially the issues of the Islamic nation."
The statement added that Saudi Arabia has always "stood with Pakistan during difficult times based on fraternal relations". "We strive always to stand with Pakistan to be a successful and stable country," the embassy added.
While not directly addressing the Turkish president's statement, the Foreign Office in response to questions from the media said that Pakistan did not participate in the Kuala Lumpur summit because "time and efforts were needed to address the concerns of major Muslim countries regarding possible division in the 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 in a brief statement.
Muslim nations consider gold, barter trade to beat sanctions
Iran, Malaysia, Turkey and Qatar are considering trading among themselves in gold and through a barter system as a hedge against any future economic sanctions on them, Reuters news agency quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad as saying on Saturday.
At the end of an Islamic summit in Malaysia, Mahathir praised Iran and Qatar for withstanding economic embargoes and said it was important for the Muslim world to be self-reliant to face future threats.
"With the world witnessing nations making unilateral decisions to impose such punitive measures, Malaysia and other nations must always bear in mind that it can be imposed on any of us," Mahathir said.