Pakistan and the Muslim World

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This discussion is going to be divided into three parts.

  • Foundation of Pakistan’s relation with the Muslim World
  • Multilateral relations with the Muslim World
  • Bilateral relations or you could say country to country relationship


First of all we will take up the first part and that is the foundations of Pakistan’s relations with the Muslim World and why Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with the Muslim World that is the issue that will be dealt with in the first part of the lecture. As I have said that Pakistan assigns prime importance to its ties and relations with the Muslim World. Pakistan is an advocate of Pan-Islamism in the International system that is greater unity, greater cooperation amongst the Muslim states so that they can affectively project and protect their interests.

Another consideration s support to Muslim causes at the International level whether you are talking of international forums or bilateral levels Pakistan has supported Muslim causes at any level in the World. The Muslims of the sub-continent have deep-rooted affiliation with the Islamic countries on the basis of religion. They demonstrated this zeal of brotherhood on many occasions. From the days of Pakistan movement, Muslims of India followed the traditional policy with the Muslim World. Pan-Islamism and Islamic values were the strongest motives behind the demand of a separate Muslim state. So after the partition, they always preferred close bilateral relations with the Muslim countries.

Another aspect relates to Pakistan’s relations with the Muslim World on country to country bases or what we call bilateral levels, when Pakistan conducts its relations with individual Muslim country. If you look at the constitution of Pakistan you find that one of the principles of policy urges the govt to maintain and pursue close and cordial relations with the Muslim World. So in other words it is imperative from constitutional perspective for the govt of Pakistan to maintain and pursue close and friendly relations with the Muslim World. Its not simply in the post independence period that Pakistan started pursuing cordial relations with the Muslim World, Pakistan heritage shows that Muslims of this region had great interest in and concern for Muslims living in any part of the World. You could find in the pre-independence period that the Muslims of this region and the ML that led the independence movement always supported the Muslim cause else where. After independence this became a permanent and regular aspect of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

So, we can say that the principles of policy in all the constitutions carry special attachment for Muslims and their heritage. The love for Muslim brotherhood continued during and after the independence.

Multilateral Relations:

Now we move on to the second aspect of today’s lecture that deals with multilateral relations that is the relations of Pakistan with other countries that involve several countries at the same time. In the multilateral domain, we can talk about Pakistan’s support for the de colonization of the Muslim World.

Support for Independence:

After becoming independent Pakistan championed the cause of liberation of those Muslim states that were under foreign control or domination and in this connection we can talk about Pakistan’s full moral support for the independence of Indonesia, Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Sudan and Eritrea. You would remember that Algerian freedom movement went on for a long time and Pakistan was a great supporter of their freedom movement and when Algeria became independent Pakistan welcomed this positive change that another Muslim country had become independent and sovereign.


Second issue that can be raised here is the Pakistan’s support for the Palestinian cause. There is a consistency and continuity in Pakistan’s support to the Palestinian cause. Pakistan, being a Muslim state, always sided with the national rights of the Palestinian people. It strongly supported the independent Palestinian state. This support goes back to the pre-independence period when ML passed resolution after resolution in support of the Palestine issue and after independence the state of Pakistan has been an ardent and an active supporter of the Palestinian cause at all levels. Sharing grievous concern over the atrocities inflicted on the Muslims, it condemned the Israeli policies. And Pakistan has criticisized time and again quite bitterly the atrocities that Israel commits against the Palestians from time to time. Pakistan supported their right to have sovereign and independent state.

Organization of Islamic Conference:

Third we can talk about OIC which is a manifestation of the Muslim World and a concept of Pan-Islamism. Organization of Islamic Conference is the largest Muslim forum in the world. Pakistan was very active in creating this forum and it had remained associated with the OIC right from the beginning of this organization Pakistan was among the 51 Muslim nations which attended the inaugural session in Rabat (1969). Its second conference was held at Lahore in 1974, its session held at the city chambers in the city of Lahore which was a matter of great honour and pride for Pakistan that the heads of states, govts and the top leaders of the Muslim World were present in Pakistan for sometime. Pakistani desired to make it an effective forum to address the political, economic, technical, scientific matters. The OIC has repeatedly extended support to Pakistan on Kashmir. It had passed resolutions demanding that the people of Kashmir should be given their right to decide their political future. One Pakistani had served as the secretary general of OIC

RCD and ECO:

Fourth important area in the multi-lateral field is RCD (Regional Cooperation for Development) and ECO (Economic Cooperation Organization). RCD was set up in 1964 and this included Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, It worked in the area of economic trade, cultural and related fields. However, this organization became in active in 1979. In 1985-86 Turkey, Iran and Pakistan decided to set up ECO its objectives were very similar to the RCD. However, a significant development was that in 1992 6 other members were added to the ECO when Afghanistan and five Central Asian Republics, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan joined it. This means that now ECO has 10 members 3 original and others who joined later on and these members are trying to promote greater economic, trade technological and cultural cooperation and exchanges amongst the members.

Economic Assistance and Investment in Pakistan from the Middle East:

Some of the Middle East Countries had been extending economic cooperation to Pakistan from the beginning, trade relations were there from the beginning. From 1972 this relationship, economic relationship, economic assistance, economic cooperation, investment extended rapidly. Some of the Middle Eastern Countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, UAE and Libya provided economic assistance to Pakistan in the 70s and in the 80s. These countries also made investment in Pakistan primarily in the 70s and some assistance in the 80s. Their economic assistance and cooperation contributed to Pakistan’s economic development and stabilization in the 70s and the 80s.

Further more; Pakistan extends military training facilities to the number of the Gulf States and other Middle Eastern States in Pakistani institutions. Pakistan military personnel retired and serving also go these countries for different trainings and staff appointments. We all know another dimension of relationship between Pakistan and the Middle Eastern States that is thousands of thousands of Pakistanis are employed in different states of the Gulf region and other Middle Eastern Muslim states and from these states these Pakistanis working there send part of their earnings back home and this becomes an important source of earning, foreign exchange earning for Pakistani state. In this way Pakistanis living abroad especially in the Middle Eastern region are playing a significant role in Pakistan’s economy.

This relationship is very important for Pakistan and if there is a crises in the Middle East this adversely affects the trade between Pakistan and the ME and also those Pakistanis who are living and working there and their dependents in Pakistan who get their financial support from these countries from their own family members.

Rights of Muslim Minorities in different counties:

There is another dimension at multilateral level that pertains to the rights and issues of Muslim minorities in different countries of the World. Muslims are living as minorities that is where majority community is Non-Muslim. The rights and interests of Muslim minorities living in other countries is a matter of interest for Pakistan and its people. Usually Pakistan operated through the organization of Islamic Conference which monitors the rights and interests of the Muslims living in Non-Muslim majority areas.

Muslim World:

Now we move on to the third part of our lecture today which deals with country to country relationship that is Pakistan’s bilateral relations with individual Muslim countries. It is not possible to discuss all the details of this relationship with all Muslim countries. Pakistan has good relations with all the Muslim countries but we will highlight Pakistan’s relations with some of the Muslim countries so that you have a fair idea of the nature of relationship and the kind of interaction that takes place between Pakistan and different Muslim countries.

Saudi Arabia:

Let’s take up Saudi Arabia first, this has been an important relationship which is characterized by continuity of cordiality going back to the early years of Pakistan. The two countries Pakistan and Saudi Arabia shared views on major international and regional issues. Both countries consult each other on regional and international issues from time to time. They work together on Organization of Islamic Conference. Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan in all its wars with India and its position on Kashmir is supportive of Pakistan. Saudi Arabia being sacred country is a centre of the Muslim ‘Ummah’.

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have an extensive economic relationship that expanded rapidly after 1972. Saudia had always provided economic assistance and loans to Pakistan and it had also invested capital in Pakistan in various projects. An important aspect of relationship is oil supply to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia. Since 1998 SA had been supplying crude oil to Pakistan on deferred payment bases which mean that you get the oil now but you make the payment of its price later on gradually. This has help to ease economic pressure on Pakistan and Pakistan has been able to obtain oil. SA is the biggest oil supplier to Pakistan at the moment. This relationship is going to expand over the years because both have been expanding the area of cooperation for example latest addition to this cooperation is counter terrorism that is both are cooperating to contain terrorism in the region.

UAE, Kuwait and other Gulf States:

The second important relationship is with UAE, Kuwait and other Gulf States. As a matter of fact Pakistan maintains very cordial and friendly relationship with all Gulf States and Pakistanis are based in all these states. They are working there and contributing to the economy of these countries. These countries and States have close and cordial relations with Pakistan. The new era of economic relations has set in after the Gawadar port was built. These countries have been providing economic assistance and investment in Pakistan. UAE had established hospitals and Islamic centers in some of Pakistani universities where students get knowledge and instructions about Islamic studies and related subjects. I may mention here that the kingdom of Umman have a large no. of Pakistanis living there, it recruits its people in Baluchistan from its army from time to time. So there is a special relationship between this kingdom and Baluchistan. The ruling families of these states make official and personal visits to Pakistan. So far as QATAR is concerned the relations are cordial and friendly. There is a plan under consideration that a gas pipeline from Qatar to Pakistan and if this project is implemented then the economic ties of both the countries would deepen.


Pakistan maintains good and cordial relations with Iran. Iran is a neighboring state with long historical and cultural ties. Iran had another distinction. Iran was also the first country which extended formal recognition to Pakistan that is Iran was the first that recognized Pakistan. Iran’s King was also the first head of state who visited Pakistan after it came into existence. Pakistan and Iran had worked together in different organizations; both had joint arrangements in regard to CENTO which was earlier called as the BAGHDAD PACT, RCD, and ECO in addition to other global organizations where they are partners. Iran supported Pakistan in the wars with India. It stressed on liberty of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan welcomed the Iranian Revolution of February 1979. However in the initial years of the revolution the relations were rather at low key. Firstly because Iran was busy in its internal affairs, secondly Iran had some reservations over the strong ties of Pakistan with the United States at that time. However since the mid 80s the relations have been revived and Iran and Pakistan have gradually become close friends and partners with lot of exchanges and visits at different levels. In fact, 3 Iranian presidents have visited Pakistan since the revolution. In January 1986, president Khamani visited Pakistan later he became the Rahber n Iran. The 2nd president who visited Pakistan was Ali Akbar Rafsanjani who visited Pakistan in March 1997. The 3rd Iranian president who visited Pakistan was president Khatmi who visited Pakistan in December 2002. From Pakistan side there have been similar important visits. Currently there is a project under consideration for constructing a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and then from Pakistan it will go to India and if this project is materialized naturally the relations would further expand in the economic domain.


Turkey is another Muslim country with a long history of close and cordial relations with Pakistan. Turkey had stood by Pakistan in all kinds of situations in wars or in peace Turkey has supported Pakistan. On Kashmir Turkey has supported Pakistan and called for a peaceful resolution. If Turkey had been supportive of Pakistan then Pakistan has also supported in all kinds of situations especially on the Cyprus issue. In Cyprus people of Turkish origin or you can say that Turkish Cypriotes were a minority and there was a problem of their rights and interests in Cyprus. In 1974 Turkey landed its troops in Northern Cyprus and Turkish Cypriotes established their own separate entity. Pakistan has been supportive of Turkey and Turkish Cypriotes for this problem and Turkey had appreciated that gesture. There have been high level civil and military visits, in fact their top military leaders visited Pakistan and Pakistani top military leaders responded to that and go back to Turkey for similar visits. Both have great contribution in the multilateral arrangements of CENTO, RCD, ECO, etc.


Egypt Pakistan relations are normal and cordial; currently they exchanged views on regional and international issues. However in the past in the 50s and 60s there was a problem in Pakistan’s relation with the Egypt. Egypt under Nasser had some reservations due to Pakistan’s ties with the West. Pakistan supported Egypt when it was attacked by Israel in 1956, 1967, 1973. The relations began to improve and the cordiality has increased since 1967 and especially after the death of Nasser in 1970.


Libya’s head of state Col. Qazzafi has been a great well wisher and supporter of Pakistan. He and his govt extended valuable support to Pakistan in the 70s, this support was not only diplomatic support but also economic support and in the 70s Libya invested in Pakistan. When in 1986 American army launched air raids on Libya Pakistan despite its close ties with America condemned American air raids on Libya, We can look Pakistan and Libya relations in another dimension since the 70s Pakistani military and civilian retired personnel have been doing job and employment in Libya and this has been an important bond between the two countries. Now the Libya is overcoming its problems with the United States Libya Pakistan relations are becoming friendlier and activated.


Jordan is another example of cordiality and friendship. King Hussein had special regard for Pakistan and throughout his rule he supported Pakistan. He worked for close relation with Pakistan. He supported us on India-Pakistan issues. Now his son King Abdullah continued with this tradition, tradition of friendship, cooperation and supportive to Pakistan on different issues. Both have an arrangement of cooperation in the military relationship and since the mid 60s Pakistani military personnel were based there in different capacities for training purposes, which strengthened the relationship between Pakistan and the state of Jordan. Both have trade and diplomatic exchanges. Pakistan supported Jordan on all international issues especially in its problems with Israel.


Afghanistan is a neighboring state. At the moment Pakistan has good and friendly relations with Afghanistan but if we go back especially to the early years of independence we do find problems in the relationship. It was mainly because of the govt of that time questioned the legitimacy of the Durand Line that is the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and laid claim Pakistani territory on the name of Pakhunistan. It sided with the ‘Pakhtunistan’ issue and created problems for Pakistan, but as this issue was pushed to the background with the passage of time, relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan improved. No matter what was the relationship between the govt of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the early years the relationship at the common person level or at the individual level was always cordial. Afghanis are coming into Pakistan and Pakistanis are going into Afghanistan that has always been the features. The Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979, Pakistan opposed the Soviet intervention and supported the resistance against the Soviet Union which gave birth to the Mujahideen groups, Taliban. Pakistan supported the Taliban govt in Afghanistan but in Sept 11, 2001when the regional and international environment changed Pakistan withdrew support to the Taliban, because incident in America concluded major changes in the world diplomacy. Pakistan got involved in global efforts to contain terrorism. After Taliban, Karzai government took responsibility of Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Pakistan extended all kinds of economic and technological assistance to the Karzai govt for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. The interest of Pakistan is that a friendly neighboring country should stabilize, overcome its problems so that the refugees that are there n Pakistan can go back to their homes in security and they might have better future there.


Bangladesh came into existence in December 1971 in a situation which created a lot of bitterness in Bangladesh against Pakistan and in Pakistan against Bangladesh. So in the initial years there was a lot of bitterness between the two countries. Bangladesh was East Pakistan but the internal instability and external conspiracies gave birth to Bangladesh. Pakistan had initially bitter relations but recognized it in February 1974 and from that time its relation with Bangladesh have gradually improved. Despite the fact that in the initial years both the countries have complaints against each other. In the present day context countries have cordial relations, trade has improved and the visits of senior official and political leaders has been there. Both worked together within the framework of SAARC, OIC. With the passage of time the relations of both these countries are going to expand.

Other Muslim Countries:

Then there are other Muslim countries with which Pakistan has good and friendly relations. I can mention some of the names Indonesia, Malaysia, and then there are Muslim countries in Africa like Algeria, Tunis, Morocco and Sudan. With all these countries I have named Pakistan has close and cordial relations. This reflects Pakistan’s effort to maintain close relations with the Muslim World which is an important feature of Pakistan’s foreign policy. This reflects the aspiration of the people of Pakistan who have been great supporter of Pakistan’s relations with the Muslim countries. Whenever there is a problem in the Muslim World the people of Pakistan have always stood by them and supported them in all respects therefore the govt of Pakistan has always been doing the same thing because this is enjoin on the govt from the constitution and this is also part of Pakistan’s political heritage, this also fits in Pakistani identity derived from and based on Islam that it must reflect these values in its foreign policy.


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