PPP to raise Syria policy shift in Senate

Published February 21, 2014
— File photo
— File photo

ISLAMABAD: A calling attention notice has been submitted in the Senate asking the Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs to explain the government’s position over shift in its policy on ongoing civil war in Syria in the wake of Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s recent visit to Pakistan.

The new session of the upper house of Parliament will commence on Monday.

Through the calling attention notice, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has asked Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to take the house into confidence on this “matter of great public importance” as there seemed a sudden, unexplained and a major departure from the known and stated position of Pakistan on the issue.

Without mentioning the Saudi crown prince, Senator Farhatullah Babar in the notice said it was significant that after talks between the visiting dignitary and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the two countries called for “the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers enabling it to take charge of the affairs of the country.”

It clearly means ‘regime change’ in Syria which will have profound implications for Pakistan's relations with countries of the Middle East particularly Iran, said Babar.

Until now, Islamabad refused to take sides and kept a delicate balance in its ties with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran. That balance seems to have been upset, he added.

He said that the warning by Iran's interior minister to send troops into Pakistan to secure the release of kidnapped border guards could be seen as Iran's discomfort over the shift in our policy.

“Asking for regime change in far off countries for internal disturbances can potentially land Pakistan, itself beset with myriad internal problems, in serious trouble,” said the senator adding that the government must explain its correct position.

Earlier on Thursday, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said the demand for transitional government in Syria was not tantamount to asking President Bashar al Assad to step down.

She further said that Pak-Iran relations were too broad-based to be viewed in the context of one issue or the other and quoted from a statement of President Hassan Rouhani. The Iranian leader had said, “This relationship is much deeper, much broader, it is between two peoples, it has social, religious, cultural and economic aspects.”

The spokesperson discussed Pak-Iran relations in the context of the threat by Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli of launching a cross-border raid into Pakistan for freeing abducted five Iranian border guards.

She said the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project should be looked at differently instead of being taken as an indicator of the bilateral ties turning cold.

“The pipeline issue is separate. There was a timeline but there were also some other commitments and agreements regarding financing. They have fallen apart. Therefore, perhaps we need to renegotiate the timeline as well,” she maintained.

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