Aishath Azima Shukoor, legal affairs minister at the president’s office, departed to Pakistan this morning as a special envoy of President Abdulla Yameen.
“Minister Azima is scheduled to meet with senior officials of the Pakistani Government to further strengthen the existing bilateral relations between the Maldives and Pakistan,” the president’s office said.
The visit comes amidst a lobbying effort by the government to avoid action by the Commonwealth over widely condemned human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other opposition leaders.
Earlier this month, Yameen said the Maldives avoided action after India and Pakistan “spoke in our defence” at a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group – the inter-governmental organisation’s human rights and democracy arm.
Following a meeting in late February, CMAG issued a list of demands for the Maldivian government, including initiating all-party talks, releasing jailed politicians and enabling the return of exiles.
Asima’s visit to Pakistan follows a January visit there by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon who hand-delivered a letter from Yameen to Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.
CMAG has pledged to review the Maldives’ progress in April.
Yameen had mocked calls for reform in a speech on the same day, telling critics to present a list of people they considered to be above Maldivian laws.
Yameen said he had spoken at length with the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers ahead of the CMAG meeting.
“They were very obliging … it was their representatives who spoke in our defence. There were some who attacked us. But we were saved because of the work done by both of our neighbourly powers,” he said.
Commonwealth action would hinder developmental aid, he said.
During his two-day official visit to Malaysia this week, Yameen also sought the help of the Malaysian government.
At a joint press conference with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak following official talks between the pair Tuesday morning, Yameen said the two countries have agreed to “work closely on the international front”.
“Malaysia is a respected and esteemed country in the Commonwealth. I’ve requested Prime Minister to offer his good offices in making sure that small countries in the Commonwealth and other international organisations need not be unfairly punished,” he added.
According to the president’s office, Yameen also “expressed interest in working with the Government of Malaysia on combating transnational terrorism and giving smaller nations a more representative voice.”