OIC’s New Avatar


It is a big question if birth of OIC has caused assassination of two towering Muslim leaders. It was a popular belief and continues to be so that Faisal bin Abdul Al Saud King of Saudi Arabia and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were assassinated for founding the Organization of Islamic Conference. The two leaders were recognized as soul and spirit behind this organization that was seen as an important step towards renaissance of then a billion Muslims living around the globe.

Fasil bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud was one of the most popular kings of Saudi Arabia. He ruled from 1964 to 1975. He was known for his “pan-Islamism, anti-Communism and Pro-Palestine nationalism. Many contemporary historians see him as founder of modern Saudi Arabia ‘credited with giving financial stability to his country and implementing policies of modernization and reforms. He was assassinated in 1975, one year after the historic OIC meet in ancient city of Lahore.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was most charismatic leader of Pakistan after Quad-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,   founding father of the new South Asian state. Many a factors are attributed to the assassination of this important twentieth century Muslim leader who held promise of playing a lead role in the global politics: These included his dream of making Pakistan a nuclear state; changing his country’s image from a ‘client-state’ to a sovereign country in reality; fortifying Sino-Pakistan relations and seeing the OIC emerge as United Nation of the Muslim World with programs to ensure advancement and technology and reduce their dependability on the West.    

The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 that many a Pakistan prefers to call as ‘disaster’ had many a lessons for the country. It had exposed that its conventional defence capacity was not sufficient enough as stated by a former diplomat to “safeguard its territorial integrity as East Pakistan was fragmented by Indian military intervention to create   Bangladesh.” This had made   Bhutto to undertake a “the proverbial painful reappraisal of its policy of nuclear abstinence.” In support of his nuclear program, Bhutto had launched a people’s campaign. He assured his traumatized nation that safety of their country was in embarking upon a nuclear program even if that had to take one time meal for this. Gearing up his nation for a nuclear program had not only ruffled feathers but provoked   harsh reactions from United State. Bhutto had made no secret of his views during his meeting with US President Richard Nixon. Abdul Sattar writes in his latest book on Pakistan Foreign policy, “Assessing Bhutto’s intentions, a State Department official said, what he wants is to build a bomb’. In response, Secretary of State remarked, “If you were in his position you would do the same thing.’ Adding: Gentleman, there is something indecent about our always proving that we are strong by kicking our allies in the teeth.... we are going to going ahead and sending nuclear fuel to India even after they exploded bomb and for this little project (processing plant) we are coming down on him like a ton of bricks”.

Bhutto’s ambition of making his country nuclear and birth of the OIC was not largely acceptable to the United States. These two developments considered as dovetailed to each other and media outside the Muslim World sent alarm bells around the world by calling Pakistan nuclear program as Islamic Bomb.

The OIC with leaders like King Fasal and Bhutto around was seen to emerge as an organization with potential of empowering Muslim with adequate defence mechanism that would reduce their dependability on Western countries for arms purchase.

The first Islamic Summit caused by the desecration of the holy Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem was held in Moroccan city Rabat in 1969. At this Summit of head of Muslim countries, decision was taken to institutionalize cooperation amongst the Muslim countries. Not the Rabbat summit but second Summit at Lahore was seen as a great success that boldly held promise of making the OIC as an important Muslim organization as good as the United Nations with potent enough to operate the levers of global economy and powers. “The Lahore Summit, unlike previous summits covered several subjects of concern to the Isalamic World and thus acquired a wider interest, writes, Shahid M Amin, “The OIC too gained in stature because of the success of Lahore Summit which gave the organization the necessary credibility for its continued existence.”The Summit that took place in February 1974 had attracted oil rich countries and many poor African countries.

The Summit was seen as beginning of an era of greater cooperation amongst Muslim nations in development and sharing expertise in defence, science and technology. In the words of Abdul Sattar , the Lahore Summit was memorable event for people of Pakistan …the sagacious King Fasil Bin Abdul Aziz captured the mood of Muslim people all over the world with tears of joy in his eyes as he offered Friday prayers at Badshahi Mosque.

Thirty-seven years have passed since Lahore Summit was held. And all these years have been full of turmoil for the Muslim World. Starting with Russian invasion of Afghanistan, one after another Muslim country has been suffering wars and human tragedies. However, seen in right perspective the OIC has failed to emerge as a potential force to subvert the machinations of the powers inimical to the Muslim World. It has failed to live up to the vision of the heroes of the Lahore Summit. And ‘the failure of OIC has been taken as a symbol of collective failure of the whole Muslim community. And these failures have been attributed to the structure of the organization lacking in physical and economic infrastructure.’ In keeping with concerns shown by Muslim intelligentsia and academia, the organization at   three days   meeting of Council of Foreign Minister in Astana   assumed a new avatar and dropped word ‘Conference’. It has been renamed as Organization of Islamic Cooperation retaining acronym OIC. Ostensibly, it does not seem to be a major change of any bigger consequences but what I see most significant is the revival of the dream of making the organization the United Nations of the Muslim World. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev made this call by stating that the combined economic potential of Ummah is inexhaustible, and we need to unite efforts to develop effective mechanisms for cooperation, mutual aid, and promotion of development.” It transpired from the speech of the Secretary General of that the organization will be now focusing on the resolutions of festering conflicts in the Muslim World. He unveiled an ambitious ten year plan calling for ‘a decade of action’.

Kashmir along with Palestine has been on the agenda of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation since its second Summit in 1974. The organization has accorded observers’ status to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, it has constituted a contact group on Kashmir, it has appointed a special envoy for Kashmir and every year it has been adopting a resolution on Kashmir reaffirming its support to ‘right to self-determination’ for people of Jammu and Kashmir. Leaders of the Hurriyat Conference, representatives from other side of the LOC and Kashmir Diaspora leaders have been partaking in the deliberations of the Contact group on Kashmir. The Kashmir leaders have been pinning hopes with this organization for past many years and without fail they have been reaffirming their faith in the organization believing it would prove instrumental in “furthering their cause”. Syed Ali Geelani the octogenarian Kashmir leader has been writing letters to the OIC Secretary General calling upon the OIC member countries more particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt to make resolution of Kashmir as   guiding principle in their relations with India.’ India however has been reacting sharply to the OIC contact group statement on Kashmir and denouncing it interference in India’s internal affairs.