ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday completely boycotted the Kuala Lumpur Summit after much confusion for days.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi yesterday called off his planned visit to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Muhammad and expressed his regrets for not being able to participate in the summit, which starts today (December 18).

Qureshi was expected to represent Pakistan at the summit after PM Imran Khan’s decision to skip but his visit was also cancelled.

Senior journalists and anchorpersons were told at the foreign ministry yesterday that there was a ‘division’ on the KL summit among the Ummah so Pakistan decided to skip it. The top officials said Saudi Arabia and the UAE had convinced Pakistan not to attend the summit.

The major Arab Muslim states - Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt – were not made part of this group. The participation of states considered hostile to Saudi Arabia, like Qatar and Iran, has dramatically given birth to Saudi reservations about the agenda of the summit.

Imran phones Mahathir expressing his regrets over skipping the event

Qureshi, who was among the participants of the foreign ministry briefing, said Pakistan wanted to unite the Ummah rather than dividing it.

The Malaysian PM’s Office clarified that the Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 was not intended to create a new bloc to replace the OIC.

It also said the summit was not a platform to discuss religion or religious affairs but specifically to address the state of affairs of the Muslim Ummah. “As a small nation, Malaysia, is fully aware of its limitations and capabilities. We are merely attempting to contribute what little we can for the betterment of the Ummah,” the statement said.

Mahathir Mohamad also dismissed reports that Prime Minister Imran Khan had cancelled his trip for the Kuala Lumpur 2019 Summit following pressure from Saudi Arabia. Dr Mahathir said Imran Khan could have his own reasons.

“That’s his choice, we cannot force. In Islam, there is no compulsion in religion. He can’t come maybe because of other issues,” he said. The KL Summit which is into its 5th edition is a non-governmental organisation initiative, supported by the Malaysian government and is not intended to create a new bloc as alluded to by some of its critics. In addition, 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.

Imran Khan yesterday also met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Geneva on the sidelines of First Global Refugee Forum.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry had earlier announced that Imran Khan will participate in the ‘Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019’.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said the summit was an initiative of the PM Mahathir Mohamad together with the participation of leaders, scholars and intellectuals. It is a platform to exchange views on the current challenges and to work together to address them.

Qureshi said there was no misunderstanding between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia rather the incumbent government had removed the ones created in the past.

He said the elements desiring to disintegrate the Muslim world are creating such perceptions.

About the perception of Kuala Lumpur Summit being raised as a parallel platform or against the OIC, he said it was not being held for the first time, rather Mahathir Muhammad had already organized such four sessions as his private initiative before assuming the office of the Malaysian Prime Minister.

He said Mahathir Mohammed had sent his Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia to extend a formal invitation for the summit considering it a very vital member of the Muslim world.

The summit being an outcome of troika of Muslim states, notably Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan, had aspired to rope in more Muslim-majority countries under its umbrella with the passage of time.