Pak minister’s cancelled briefing on Saudi ties hints the tiff just got wider
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is in the eye of a diplomatic storm for his remarks against Organisation of Islamic Conference for its inaction on the Kashmir issue, which were seen as an indirect attack on Saudi Arabia, which leads the group.
On Tuesday, he postponed his press conference for the second time amid reports that Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Pakistan, reacted strongly to his statements. He is understood to have called the press conference to explain his remarks in a bid to placate the kingdom. The postponement suggests Pakistan would have to do more to rectify the situation.
One observer has said his job is now on the line.
Last week, Qureshi asked OIC to “stop dilly-dallying” on convening a meeting of its Council of Foreign Ministers on Kashmir. “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,” he had told a TV channel.
He said if OIC fails to summon the council of foreign ministers meeting, Pakistan would be ready to go for a session outside OIC. Pakistan has been pushing for the foreign ministers’ meeting of the 57-member bloc of Muslim countries, the second largest intergovernmental body after the United Nations.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office, asked about Qureshi’s remarks, had later insisted that it was not against diplomatic norms.
Pakistan has been pushing for the foreign ministers’ meeting of the 57-member bloc of Muslim countries, the second largest intergovernmental body after the UN, since India scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last August.
Qureshi said Pakistan skipped the Kuala Lumpur Summit last December on a Saudi request and now Pakistani Muslims are demanding Riyadh “show leadership on the issue”.
“We have our own sensitivities. You have to realise this. Gulf countries should understand this,” the foreign minister said, adding that he could no more indulge in diplomatic niceties.
Qureshi made it clear that he was not being emotional and fully understood the implications of his statement. “It’s right, I’m taking a position despite our good ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Opposition PML-N had attacked the government for the minister’s remarks, describing it as an irresponsible statement about a friendly country and the worst kind of diplomacy. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had historic and strategic relations and Saudi Arabia had always stood by Pakistan in testing times, the party’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said, accusing the government of “playing with” vital interests of the country.