Credit where due, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has been successful in reducing Pakistan to the status of a parody country who is hell-bent on digging its own grave. Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi under a false sense of bravado decided to threaten Saudi Arabia over the latter’s refusal to meddle on the Kashmir issue and thereafter threatened to split Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). In what can be seen as the realisation of Pakistan’s humongous debt and standing amongst the world community, the Imran Khan government is now running helter-skelter to undo the self-inflicted damage caused by Qureshi’s statement. Consequentially, a frantic Pakistan has now removed the footage of Qureshi threatening Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had an outburst on television as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) refused to take up Pakistan’s demands to hold a Foreign Minister’s meet to discuss the Kashmir issue and the abrogation of Article 370.
In a television interview, Qureshi gave an ultimatum to Saudi Arabia, saying that Pakistan will have to look for other options if the OIC doesn’t come forward in support of its stance on Kashmir. Inadvertently threatening Saudi Arabia who leads the chair in OIC, a 57-member organization could have serious repercussions for Pakistan.
“I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris,” said Qureshi in a TV interview.
Qureshi further exclaimed that OIC- led by Saudi Arabia should decide if it wants to stand with Pakistan on such a sensitive issue, as Pakistan will not wait for Saudi Arabia’s support anymore. Soon after the video made headlines, the Pakistani channel removed Qureshi’s statements on Saudi Arabia but the damage to the Imran Khan government was already done.
In return to Qureshi’s rather absurd statements, the Imran Khan government sensed an impending Saudi retaliation and has moved quickly to scrub the footage of Qureshi threatening the Saudis off the internet.
Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the issue of Kashmir have seen a huge blow as Saudi Arabia, the de-facto leader of the Muslim world has been steadfast in its stance that the Kashmir issue is India’s internal matter and consequently deferred Pakistan’s plans in OIC.
It is no more a hidden fact that like a chameleon, Pakistan keeps changing its colours and sides with anyone who can grant them a few billion dollars in a loan or help them internationalise the issue of Kashmir. Imran Khan Dispensation thoughtlessly assumed that Turkey President who has now become a dictator will become the new Khalifa of the Muslim world and hence sided with Turkey despite Saudi’s concerns.
Earlier this year, Pakistanis jumped to defend Turkey on Twitter against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the two countries were engaged in diplomatic crosshairs. Expectedly, Pakistan ended up making a laughing stock of it as the Pakistanis trended #boycottUAE on Pakistani Twitter seeking to severe relations with the UAE. The keyboard warriors forgot that Pakistan owed UAE a mammoth $30 billion.
Under Mahathir Mohamad, relations had peaked between Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia, which were quite literally on the verge of announcing an anti-India alliance/axis, consisting of other smaller Islamic nations as well. However, with India choking the Malaysian economy, Mahathir kicked himself out of his office. Ever since Malaysia, under its current PM Muhyiddin has distanced itself from Pakistan and Turkey, the to-be grand axis, as such, has fallen even before inception.
Earlier in May, at a virtual meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the United Nations on May 19, Pakistan had undertaken a campaign, unsuccessfully so, to set up an informal anti-India working group within the OIC, to probe ‘supposed Islamophobia’ rising in India.
Mahathir had organized the Islamic Summit in Malaysia last year, which Pakistan pulled out of in the very last moment, facing severe pressure from Saudi Arabia not to attend the same. Mahathir was trying to cook up a non-Saudi, non-UAE grand Islamic alliance, of which Turkey was a wholehearted partner.
During the summit which excluded the likes of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, Erdogan was quoted saying that it was ‘unfortunate’ that Saudi Arabia ‘pressures‘ Pakistan. Erdogan insinuated that the Saudis had threatened to withdraw the loan from Pakistan’s Central bank and replace four million Pakistanis working in Saudi with Bangladeshi workers, thereby prompting Imran Khan to cancel his trip last minute.
The working group, of course, would also work towards achieving the Kashmir narrative which Pakistan wants to propagate. However, Maldives thrashed the radical Islamist state left, right and centre for its brazen attempts at using the OIC as a platform to single out India and push its dirty agenda forward.
Reports suggested that Maldives’ action at the virtual meet of the OIC was in fact, backed by Saudi Arabia and UAE. Further, Oman also took a clear stand-in India’s favour at the OIC, saying that the discourse trying to be initiated at the OIC was a part of India’s internal affairs. UAE, while rejecting Pakistan’s demand, stated that forming of any new working group will only happen after it has been approved by all the foreign ministers of OIC member countries.
What led to this extreme isolation of Pakistan in an Islamic organization? The simple answer would be its growing proximity with another rabidly Islamist state, called Turkey. Turkey, under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has grown extremely warm relations with Pakistan in recent times, much to the dismay of Arab and Gulf nations, particularly the global Islamic hegemony – Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan is hurtling towards Turkey at a break taking speed as earlier this year; Turkey offered to extend its citizenship to Pakistani nationals. A plan to work out dual citizenship is also under process, which will facilitate the people from Turkey to take up Pakistani citizenship, and Pakistanis to take up Turkish citizenship.
After last year’s United Nations General Assembly session, Imran Khan took to Twitter to reveal, “President Erdogan, PM Mahatir and I had a meeting today in which we decided our 3 countries would jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record straight on our great religion – Islam.”
Such a move directly challenged the status of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world and the Saudis didn’t take this move lightly and decided to humiliate Imran Khan. Pakistani media had reported that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was so miffed with Imran Khan’s actions on the sidelines of the UNGA session that he ordered his “private jet to disembowel the Pakistani delegation” as a consequence, thereby forcing Imran Khan to return to Pakistan on a commercial flight.
Imran Khan and his government have defied all logic by deciding to poke the Saudis even though Pakistan is afloat on Saudi loans. Time and again, Saudi Arabia has bailed out beggar Pakistan with a huge loan – so much has been the country’s influence on Pakistan that even Imran Khan himself drove the Saudi Crown Prince.
It seems that Pakistan’s new-found love with Turkey has not gone down well with Saudi as the latter is now seeking to punish Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has now stopped the supply of oil to the country since May after the expiration of the deferred payment deal.
The Express Tribune reported that the $3.2 billion Saudi oil facility was a part of the USD 6.2-billion Saudi Arabian package announced in November 2018 to ease Pakistan’s external sector woes. Pakistan is trying to renew the facility but the Saudis are yet to respond to Pakistan’s request.
In a desperate bid to placate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan returned $1 billion Saudi loan — four months ahead of its repayment period. Now, it’s a separate thing that Pakistan returned this loan by taking an additional loan of $1 billion from China.
The fact that Saudi Arabia has rolled over its $3 billion loan from between November 2019 and January 2020 will further deplete the debt sustainability of Pakistan according to the International Monetary Fund.
It seems that the realisation has finally dawned upon Pakistan that Qureshi’s threat to split the OIC might invite bigger trouble. Hence, Pakistan has deleted the video and also gone soft now on Saudi as Qureshi is now filled with gratitude towards Saudi Arabia for helping Pakistan by granting loans and laughably even claimed that Pakistan returned $1billion to help the Saudi economy.
Imran Khan must be commended to provide comic relief even during the times of a pandemic. Khan and his ministers have reduced Pakistan to nothing less than a global laughing stock.