Pakistan FM opts out of Islamic bloc meeting

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan's foreign minister will not attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting which commenced on Friday, but a lower-level delegation will represent the country.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the decision was taken after the UAE did not retract its invitation to India despite strong objection by Pakistan.

"I had requested the UAE to review the decision but they said we extended the invitation before Pulwama attack and now it would be hard to retract the invitation," Qureshi told the parliament in an address aired on state-run PTV.

He was referring to a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir in mid-February that left more that 40 Indian troops dead.

The attack was claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), a militant group that Pakistan has banned since 2002 but is accused by India of providing sanctuary.

Tensions between the two nuclear armed-neighbors escalated following the attack with both countries engaging in an aerial dogfight on Wednesday along the disputed border with Kashmir, the first in decades, where they claimed to have shot down each other's fighter jets.

The UAE as the host country for the 46th OIC summit on Friday and Saturday invited the Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj as the 'guest of honor'.

Qureshi warned that Pakistan will strongly oppose any move to grant observer status to India in OIC.

"India is neither a member of OIC nor its has any observer status while they [India] aggressed against a founding member of OIC, then how you could invite its foreign minister in an Islamic-bloc meeting," Qureshi said.

The top diplomat thanked his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu who supported Pakistan's stance.