KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday expressed his regret on being unable to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit, held in Malaysia in December of last year, adding that there was a misconception among some countries that the conference would divide the ummah.
Addressing a joint press conference following talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya, Prime Minister Imran said: "I want to say how sad I was that I couldn't attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December.
"Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place."
In December of last year, Prime Minister Imran had pulled out of the Kuala Lumpur Summit of some 20 Muslim countries reportedly due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia. At the time, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit
The premier today said that he was "looking forward" to attending the conference because he felt that it is important that Muslim countries educate the West and other non-Muslim countries about Islam.
"All these misunderstandings, whether they are deliberate or whether they are by ignorance, [...] it is important that we the Muslim countries, educate them about the real message of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
"I also felt that we need a media, which we are working on, some sort of a joint effort that not only projects this [...] but also develop content for our young people about what really Islam is."
He reiterated his regret at being unable to attend the conference.
Responding to a question about whether he would attend the KL Summit next year, Prime Minister Imran said: "Of course I would because now it is evident that the KL Summit was not to divide the ummah [...] If anything it was to unite the ummah, so of course I would love to come."
In response to another question, the premier said the decision not to attend the summit had not affected Pakistan's relations with other Muslim nations.
In response to a question about getting Pakistan to buy more palm oil from Malaysia, the Malaysian prime minister said that the two had discussed the sale of palm oil.
"I think Pakistan is quite ready to import more palm oil from Malaysia," he said.
"That's right, especially since we noticed that India threatened to cut Malaysia's palm oil imports for supporting the Kashmir cause, Pakistan will do its best to compensate for that," Prime Minister Imran added.
India has put general restrictions on refined palm oil imports and informally asked traders specifically to stop buying from Malaysia, the world's second-biggest producer and exporter of the edible oil, in retaliation for Malaysia's accusation that recent Indian policies discriminate against Muslims.
In his first engagement of the visit, Prime Minister Imran exchanged views with the Malaysian defence minister at the Kuala Lumpur airport.
According to Radio Pakistan, the two sides are expected to sign numerous important agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs).
During his visit, Prime Minister Imran will also address an event organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia, the report said.
Imran's visit to Malaysia comes after he decided to skip the Kuala Lumpur summit of some 20 Muslim countries last year, reportedly due to pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia, which had extended a helping hand to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government during its early days to stave off an economic crisis.
At the time, the foreign minister had confirmed that Riyadh and the UAE had concerns about the summit, saying the two countries were worried that the event could cause “division in Ummah” and lead to setting up of an organisation parallel to the existing Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Turkish media later quoted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that Prime Minister Imran had decided against attending the Malaysia summit because of Saudi Arabia's threats of economic sanctions, which allegedly included withdrawing money the kingdom has deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan and replacing Pakistani labour in Saudi Arabia with Bangladeshis.
However, the Saudi embassy in Islamabad had denied "information and fake news" that Riyadh had "pressurised and threatened" Pakistan to refrain from participating in the Kuala Lumpur summit, saying "the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Pakistan are superior to the language of threat."
The Foreign Office, meanwhile, had stated 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".
Talks between Prime Minister Imran and Prime Minister Mahathir were held earlier today.
Speaking at the press conference following the talks, Mahathir said: "We agree on the need for regular discussions to strengthen trade relations by removing barriers in key areas and addressing the bilateral goods imbalance."
Imran thanked his Malaysian counterpart for the invitation to his country and said the trip was to further strengthen the ties between Pakistan and Malaysia, which he said, have traditionally been close.
"The object of the trip is to get even closer," he said.
"We feel that there the future of trading ties, investment, of cooperation between Malaysia and Pakistan is tremendous," the premier said, adding that there is a close affinity between the people of the two countries.
The premier specifically thanked Malaysia for the way the country had spoken about the situation in Kashmir. Upon his arrival, Prime Minister Imran was received by his Malaysian counterpart.
On Monday, the premier arrived in Kuala Lumpur on a two-day official visit to the country on the invitation of the Malaysian prime minister.
The premier was received by Malaysia's Minister for Defence Mohamad Sabu and senior officials of the Malaysian government upon his arrival at Bunga Raya Complex, Kuala Lumpur International Airport. High Commissioner of Pakistan in Malaysia Amna Baloch and officers of the high commission were also present.
According to the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood and Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood accompanied the prime minister.