Deutsche Welle, By Shamil Shams, November 23
Experts say that democratic forces in the so-called Developing Eight (D-8) Muslim nations are under threat and that economic progress could be impeded by the rise of Islamism in their societies.
The biennial economic summit of the Developing Eight (D-8) Muslim nations ended in Islamabad on Thursday with countries pledging to increase economic cooperation.
The D-8 bloc consists of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey. The combined population of these developing Muslim nations is close to one billion.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also took part in the summit, whereas Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi canceled his trip at the last moment. According to Egyptian state television, Morsi could not attend due to his involvement in the Gaza truce between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group.
The conflict in Gaza also featured high on the summit agenda. Many D-8 leaders condemned the Israeli offensive in Gaza to stop rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
The summit took place amid a string of attacks on Pakistan’s minority Shiite Muslims in different parts of the country, which killed at least 25 people. One of the attacks took place on an Imambargah – a Shiite place of worship – in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to the summit venue, killing at least 23 people and wounded 62 on Wednesday.
The joint declaration issued at the end of the D-8 summit not only pledged to pursue development goals but also emphasized the need for strengthening democracy in the D-8 countries.
“We underline the importance of collaboration in the fields of sharing best practices, lessons learned, and knowledge on democracy and good governance in order to build a solid foundation for peace and development,” the declaration said.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari – who took the helm of the D-8 chairmanship from the Nigeria for the next two years – called the D-8 only a group of developing nations, but also a bloc of democratic countries.
“It is a moment of pride […] Today, D-8 is not just developing countries, but eight strong democratic countries, with a common bond, […] with a journey for a better future,” President Zardari told the gathering.
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