ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Sunday that the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad is a matter of national security, amid the threat of political turmoil that threatens to disrupt the intergovernmental conference.
Pakistan is set to host the 48th session of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers on March 22-23, where officials from its 56 member states are expected to address core issues, including the situations in Palestine, Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The meeting is taking place amid political unrest in the South Asian country, where an alliance of opposition parties filed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan this month. Under Pakistan’s constitution, a session must be summoned within 14 days after the motion is received, a day that falls on Monday.
With no dates set, the opposition on Saturday warned of a disruption to the upcoming OIC meeting, while demanding the National Assembly speaker to summon the session in time.
Though the joint opposition has since backpedaled on the sit-in threat, the interior minister warned on Sunday against any disruption to the summit.
“Anyone who has the courage should try to stop the OIC meeting,” Ahmed said during a press conference.
The minister said that more than 15,000 security officers, comprising members of the police and paramilitary, will be deployed for the OIC event that starts on Tuesday.
“This is a matter of national security.”
Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday said the opposition will stage a sit-in at the National Assembly if a resolution on a no-confidence vote against the prime minister is delayed.
“If the speaker of the National Assembly does not present the no-confidence motion on Monday, then I would recommend to my party, to the opposition parties that we will not get up from the hall,” Zardari had said.
“We will then see how your OIC conference takes place.”
The National Assembly is the venue where the OIC meeting will take place this week.
Just hours after Zardari’s statement, the opposition issued a statement and reassured that Pakistan’s domestic politics and internal turmoil “will not be allowed to affect the OIC conference,” further wishing the “esteemed guests in Islamabad” a pleasant stay.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser announced on Sunday afternoon that a session of the lower house of parliament, which is expected to table the no-trust resolution against Khan, will be convened on March 25.
The opposition blames Khan for mismanaging the country, economy and foreign policy, which the prime minister has denied. In Pakistan, no prime minister has ever completed his full term in office.