Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is widely rated to be the symbol of reassertion of the influence of Gulf monarchies particularly Saudi Arabia backed up by vast natural resources. In recent times OIC has consistently focused on Afghanistan for the simple reason that both Saudi Arabia and its close partner the UAE were the decisive supporters of the type of political forces that have ultimately gained power in Kabul. The harrowing consequences of the long-drawn conflict in Afghanistan have understandably compelled the Gulf monarchies to provide assistance to the war-ravaged country both as a strategy to avoid any fall-out of Afghanistan in their own countries and also to bridge the void left by the withdrawal of the Western alliance.
It however became apparent that Afghanistan has not bought into this strategy as is evident by the low-level representation the country has resorted to holding back its foreign minister from participation. It may be noted that the Taliban government had sent its foreign minister Muttaqi to the ext¬raordinary session of the OIC foreign ministers in Islamabad in December. In this context it may be kept in view that a debate has ensued over Muttaqi’s participation in the last OIC moot in Islamabad when it was pointed out that he was missing in the foreign ministers’ group photo while the Afghan seat had remained vacant. It was also pointed out that Muttaqi was sitting in the last rows of guests.
The simple fact is that no member of the 57-member OIC has recognised the Taliban government and the seat is officially still with the ousted government of Ashraf Ghani just as is the case in the United Nations, making it the logical reason for compelling the Taliban to downgrade the level of its participation in this week’s OIC summit by sending an Afghan foreign ministry official rather than its minister. Despite this development, the OIC has set-up a trust fund for humanitarian affairs under the auspices of the Islamic Development Bank with this fund mandated to serve as a means to direct humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through partnership with other international actors. Such action will be undertaken with relevant UN Agencies with a view to draw a road map to mobilise action in the relevant forum to open financial and banking channels to restore liquidity and flow of financial and humanitarian assistance.
Despite the disappointment faced right at the outset the OIC foreign ministers converged in Islamabad with a heavy agenda. It is, however, obvious that the focus of events currently has shifted from Afghanistan to Ukraine and this fact was clearly visible in the indifferent atmosphere of the meeting. Though most countries may be able to afford this benign neglect but Pakistan is not among them as the key stakeholder in Afghanistan, and sharing a long border with it, Pakistan gains the most by reminding the world that the situation in Afghanistan requires to be addressed by the international community. Pakistan was taking the OIC conference in this context but the ongoing political crisis in the country further muted the relevance of the occasion. Pakistan was expecting that the member nations of the OIC would adequately share a responsibility to raise their collective voice and also back their demands with material and practical steps to improve the situation in Afghanistan.
This expectation was rather optimistic as at the best of times, the OIC has not been an effective body in global affairs. The body is managed by states awash with wealth but it has not been able to assert its position on crucially important issues confronting the Muslims particularly the Kashmir problem and the Palestine issue. Throughout its existence the OIC has mostly employed rhetoric rather than formulating unified positions supported by the will to take collective stance on these and other issues that require the Islamic bloc to speak as one. This lack of performance has rendered the organisation as a paper tiger considered more of a superfluous body. It has not even figured prominently in the fields of health, education and poverty that plague most of its member states and are primarily responsible for the backwardness of the Muslim world.
It has been widely commented that the OIC conspicuously lacks the will to carry forward concerted efforts and appropriately reassess its strengths and weaknesses so that it can make contributions that translate into tangible outcomes. The most important requirement is of developing a dynamic and focused leadership that may reset priorities, mark objectives and deliver results on set timelines. In the current state OIC reeks of failure devoid of any cogent vision and realistic goals and appears to be gripped by a tunnel vision. By all accounts the OIC meeting produced hardly any tangible results and even failed to evoke whole-hearted interests of the Muslim world. This situation is certainly required to be improved and that too as early as possible. TW