In the game of cricket there are many ways in which a batsman can get out. However, everyone feels sorry when a batsman gets out inadvertently hitting his own wicket while attempting to play a shot.
Imran Khan of Pakistan made his debut as his country’s leader with a sterling reputation garnered in his career as a cricketer. All his fans expected the Kaptan (Captain)—the sobriquet his admirers affectionately use for him—to make waves, earn laurels and carve new records in his new vocation, just as he had excelled in cricket. However, Imran recently hit his own wicket and Pakistanis—friends and foes of his—are agog: Why did he do it?
An important conclave of leaders of several Islamic countries was held recently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Billed as the KL Summit, it brought together under one roof, among other notables, President Recep Erdogan of Turkey, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, the host of the gathering.
But the leader most conspicuous by his absence was Imran. The Pakistani prime minister begged himself off from attending the meeting, without providing a logical reason for his last-minute no-show. What’s galling to most—especially to the host of the meeting—is the fact that the conference was the brainchild of Imran, and he becomes guilty of not owning his own invention. It was on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s annual session last September in New York that he met Erdogan and Mahathir and the three of them came up with the idea of pooling the collectives efforts of like-minded Islamic states for promoting a better image of Islam—their common faith and identity.
Among the three proponents of the idea, Imran was seen as ‘more equal than others’ because he had just delivered a strong message to the world audience—in his straight-from-the-heart address from the UNGA podium—to drop their pre-conceived notions of Islam being a religion or faith that
promotes terrorism. Imran had made a passionate appeal to non-Muslims to shirk their ‘Islamophobia’ and rethink Islam.
Imran found receptive listeners among Muslim leaders like Erdogan and Mahathir, who shared his vision that it was their responsibility to promote and sell a healthier image of Islam. The idea of the KL Summit, bringing together thinkers, authors, social scientists, social activists, et al., from across the spectrum of the Islamic world, was germinated right there in New York among these three leaders. Mahathir offered to play host to what the leaders thought would be a watershed, a new groundbreaking assembly of Muslim intellectuals and policy thinkers.
Punditry that followed the birth of what was hailed as a noble initiative noted that all three promoters of it happened to be non-Arabs and shared a wealth of ideas on how to revive the Muslim world as a collective and dynamic force in the 21st century. There was consensus among pundits that this non-Arab initiative was an idea whose time had come, largely because the Arab world had failed to provide a path to the Islamic ummah on how to resuscitate itself. There was lamentation all around that the existing collective body, the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), had failed, miserably, to be a beacon to the Islamic world.
OIC, conceived and born in the wake of the arson attempt back in 1969 at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem—the third holiest shrine for Muslims—has done nothing spectacular in its half a century of being there. It’s as good as a dodo, a paralysed body that does precious little beyond assembling pompous Muslim leaders under its umbrella for routine, inane meetings and issuing communiques that hardly merit any notice.
OIC has been rendered dysfunctional and moribund by the Saudis who largely bankroll it and want it to play a second fiddle to their foreign policy. Instead of working for unity of the ummah, Saudi Arabia has become its divider and spoiler—its incursion and ill-fated adventure in Yemen being ample evidence of its nihilistic role.
But then, the Saudis leaned on their ‘brother’ Imran to sabotage his attendance at KL Summit. The Saudis and the Emiratis in the UAE took fright that the KL conclave was going to become a parallel body to their subservient OIC. They couldn’t exert pressure on the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Malaysia. But Pakistan is indebted to them. Their largesse bailed out Pakistan from its economic misery. Imran is personally beholden to them.
So Imran was summoned to Riyadh for an ‘audience’ with Saudi Arabia’s de facto monarch, the incorrigible MBS. Upon his return from there it was announced that Pakistan would not be attending the KL Summit. The risible explanation for Imran shooting himself in the foot was that Pakistan wanted to be “neutral” and work as “a bridge” to unite Islam-ic countries.The message between the lines was that the ‘brave’ Kaptan had wilted, succumbed to Saudi arm-twisting and didn’t mind hitting his
own wicket. Never mind the egg on his face, it’s all between ‘brothers’.