ISLAMABAD: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to travel to Pakistan next month in a visit seen as significant against the backdrop of recent regional developments.
The Turkish president will be leading a high-powered delegation, comprising senior officials as well as businessmen, official sources privy to his visit told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
Although, the Foreign Office or the Turkish government have not yet officially announced any firm dates, he is likely to arrive in Islamabad on February 13 on a two-day visit.
Initially, Erdogan was scheduled to travel in October last year but his visit was postponed after tensions flared up between Turkey and the United States over the war in Syria.
Historically, Pakistan and Turkey enjoy close relationship as both countries supported each other on issues of mutual interests.
PM Imran to visit Malaysia next week
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Turkish President Erdogan met at the sidelines of UN General Assembly session in New York in September last year. They were also joined by Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahatir Mohammad. The three leaders decided to launch an English language news channel in that three-way meeting in order to counter stereotypes about Islam.
They were to meet again in December in Kuala Lumpur along with leaders from Iran, Qatar and Indonesia to further their joint agenda. However, Pakistan and Malaysia stayed away from the Kuala Lumpur summit after reservations expressed by Saudi Arabia and its other Arab allies.
Saudi Arabia in particular viewed the Kuala Lumpur summit as an attempt to create a new Islamic bloc. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir, however, dismissed such concerns and emphasised that the initiative was meant to discuss issues facing the Muslim countries and suggest a way forward.
Pakistan had to pull out of the summit on the grounds to maintain what it said ‘neutral position’ within the Muslim world.
But the last minute decision apparently put Pakistan in awkward situation with the Turkish president publically claiming that Islamabad had to withdraw after Saudi Arabia threatened to withdraw financial assistance as well as dispel millions of its workers currently working in the kingdom.
Saudis pressure forced Pakistan to skip KL summit: Erdogan
Saudi Arabia strongly dismissed the claim, insisting that its relationship with Pakistan was beyond the realm of ‘threats and intimidation’.
Against this backdrop, the upcoming visit of Turkish president will be watched closely. There is sense within the Foreign Office that Pakistan must maintain good relationship with all Muslim countries.
Islamabad recognises its strategic and close ties with Riyadh but at the same understands the importance of its relationship with both Ankara and Kuala Lumpur.
Both Mahatair and Erdogan were instrumental in highlighting the longstanding issue of Kashmir dispute at the international fora. At the last UN General Assembly session, Turkish and Malaysian leaders castigated New Delhi for revoking the special status of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K) and committing grave human rights violations in the disputed region.
Observers believe the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran to Malaysia and the visit of Turkish president to Islamabad would help address any misgivings these countries may have after Pakistan opted out of the Kuala Lumpur summit.