ISLAMABAD: Muslim leaders gather today for a rare summit in Pakistan designed to increase trade and investment.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Egyptian leader Muhammad Mursi and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, key players in the Middle East, are scheduled to be among those attending the Developing Eight (D8) summit.
The D8 groups Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, with an estimated total population of one billion people.
Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Islamabad yesterday Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is also due to attend. Bangladesh and Malaysia will be represented at adviser- wand ministerial-level respectively.
The summit will mark the first visit by an Egyptian president to Pakistan in four decades and by the first by a Nigerian leader in 28 years. Its ambitious goal is to increase trade between member countries from $130 billion to $507 billion by 2018.
D8 leaders are set “to discuss ways to cushion the effects of the global economic recession and climate change and tackle ways to boost trade among themselves”, the Pakistani government said in a statement.
Islamabad rarely hosts major international gatherings given the Taleban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence that has plagued the country since the 9/11 attacks.
Thousands of extra police and paramilitaries will deploy and construction work has been suspended around the diplomatic enclave to provide foolproof security, Islamabad police chief Bani Amin told AFP.
Pakistan wants the summit to boost trade and investment, strengthen its international standing and help “remove misconceptions (about Pakistan) created in a section of international media”, the statement said.
Egypt’s Muhammad Mursi is scheduled to address a joint session of the Pakistani Parliament on Friday.
Iran’s Ahmadinejad will likely use the meeting to ease his country’s isolation due to sanctions over its contested nuclear program.
Many in the West suspect the program masks a covert attempt to develop nuclear weapons, something vehemently denied by Iran.
Pakistan will also likely press Iran over a multi-billion dollar deal to import Iranian gas despite US pressure to abandon the project because of the sanctions.
Meahwhile, militants hit Pakistani security forces yesterday killing 10 people the Islamabad, while in the southwestern city of Quetta, bombers hit an army vehicle escorting children home from school, killing four soldiers and a woman, police said.
Analyst Talat Masood said it was a chance for it to emerge as “one of the leading players in the Islamic world,” but warned that events in the Middle East could dominate.
“The present crisis between Hamas and Israel and Iran’s relations with the US and important developments on this front will be a matter of serious discussion,” Masood told AFP.
The group was formed in 1997 to advance development cooperation among the member nations. They are mainly Muslim states with the exception of Nigeria, which population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians.