Foreign ministers from Muslim nations are meeting in Pakistan on Tuesday as the country’s leader trumpeted his success in getting Islamophobia recognized at the United Nations while battling the most serious challenge to his rule in four years.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is meeting in Islamabad with an ambitious agenda that calls for the endorsement of more than 100 declarations, including aid to financially-stressed Afghanistan and support for Palestinians and Kashmir.
But as officials praise Prime Minister Imran Khan for getting the UN last week to formally recognize Islamophobia as a global threat, the cricketer-turned-politician faces a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly .
In a turbulent week on the political front, the country also celebrates Pakistan Day on Wednesday, with a military parade and flypasts.
The theme of the OIC meeting is “Partnership for Unity, Justice and Development”, and Khan will deliver the keynote address which will no doubt refer to last week’s UN resolution – a bogeyman staff since becoming Prime Minister in August 2018.
Khan was elected thanks to an electorate tired of the two-party dynasties that have dominated Pakistani politics since independence – periods of power punctuated by military coups – but he seems to have lost that support, and perhaps also the army.
“I think the army leadership must be extremely worried about what’s happening on the political scene right now,” said Talat Masood, a retired general turned political analyst.
Khan has called on a million of his supporters to rally in the capital next week to pressure dozens of National Assembly members who are considering voting against him.
Leaders of the two main opposition parties have also called on their supporters to come together, urging authorities to declare most of this week a public holiday in hopes of avoiding clashes, particularly at the meeting of the OIC.
“It’s dragging the country into chaos,” Masood said.
“It looks like the government and the opposition parties are on a collision course. They don’t seem to solve the problems politically, and are instead trying to show their street power.”
The no-confidence motion is expected to be formally introduced on Friday with a vote next week, but horse-trading is common in Pakistani politics and the rebels could well return to the fold by then.
“He mismanaged his own political parties and those of his allies,” political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said of Khan.
“It was his inability to keep the party and his allies together that brought him to this.”
Although Pakistan has escaped the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak, the economy is in the doldrums with soaring inflation, a weak rupee and crushing debt.
The return of the Taliban to power in neighboring Afghanistan has also sparked a resurgence of militancy in Pakistan, including the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Peshawar last month claimed by the local Islamic State chapter that killed more than 60 people.
With domestic issues burning, Khan has tried to position himself on the international stage, but his insistence on continuing a visit to Moscow last month as Russian troops invaded Ukraine has puzzled even his most ardent admirers.
He was also one of the few world leaders to attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics when others boycotted in protest at China’s human rights record.
There are several scenarios in play for Pakistan this week.
Khan’s PTI party is pursuing legal action against rebel members that could force them to follow the whip.
Another tactic is for parties to literally hold lawmakers hostage and prevent them from voting or having a quorum.
And even if Khan loses the vote, there will likely be a series of challenges both inside and outside the assembly.
Most of that will be lost at today’s OIC meeting, which is largely a discussion workshop that will adopt a series of policy resolutions.
Chief among them is the delivery of aid to Afghanistan, although any official recognition of the country’s new Taliban government remains unlikely.