Why is PM Khan taking an emergency trip to Saudi Arabia on Saturday?

The visit was planned after the kingdom hinted that it was unhappy with the Pakistani Prime Minister’s decision to attend the Kuala Lumpur summit.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan is set to visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday to assure Saudi Arabia’s leadership that the relationship between the two countries will remain firm, despite Pakistan’s engagement with other Muslim countries.

The visit was planned after the kingdom hinted that it was unhappy with the Pakistani Prime Minister’s decision to attend the Kuala Lumpur summit, which is taking place in Malaysia from 18th to 20th December.

The Kuala Lumpur summit is a project of the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Tun Mahathir Mohamad. Other leaders that are taking part in the summit are Tayyip Erdogan, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Irani President Hasan Rouhani. The Indonesian President Joko Widodo was also expected to attend the summit but could not due to external pressure and now, one of his representatives would attend the meeting in his place.

It is still way too early to judge what outcome will come from the summit, the Saudis see this as an attempt to present an alternative to the currently existing Jeddah-based OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation), which works under the de-facto leadership of the Saudis.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is quite keen on this summit.

“The KL summit would provide Pakistan with an opportunity to exchange views and find solutions to challenges facing the Muslim world, particularly the governance, development, terrorism, and Islamophobia. The summit will also provide us an opportunity to foster cooperation in diverse areas with the participating countries”, the Foreign Office, in one of the statements stated.

This plan for the summit was finalized during a trilateral meeting, which involved Pakistan, Malaysia, and Turkey. This meeting took place in September in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session.

Imran Khan sent Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to appease Riyadh, where he also met his counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah. As per SPA (Saudi Press Agency), the two ministers discussed ‘the latest developments at regional and international arenas’.

While answering questions regarding PM’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Mohammad Faisal said: “High-level political exchanges between the two countries are the hallmark of this brotherly bilateral relationship. You have witnessed the high frequency of leadership level exchanges, especially since last August. The prime minister has undertaken at least three visits to KSA since May this year.”

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