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Saudi-led military alliance not against any country: Tehmina Janjua

Updated April 04, 2017

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said Tuesday Pakistan remains committed to its policy of non-interference in the conflicts of Muslim countries.

She gave the assurance during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs which discussed the issue of clearance given to former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif to lead the Saudi-led 41-nation Islamic military alliance and Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"The Islamic [military] alliance is against terrorism, not any [specific] country," Janjua said in response to a question by committee chairman Awais Leghari.

She was addressing concerns that Islamabad’s decision to send the former army chief to lead the alliance will complicate the already fraught Pak-Iran ties.

The foreign secretary said Pakistan is making efforts to reduce the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"It is difficult for Pakistan to maintain equal relations with both countries but Pakistan will not go against Iran's interests," she assured the panel.

Raheel Sharif will not act against Iran as the head of the military alliance, she asserted.

She said Oman was the 41st country to have become a member of the alliance.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised concerns that the Foreign Office's (FO) statements regarding the Saudi military coalition are contradictory and said that Pakistan must make careful decisions regarding the Islamic alliance.

He said a tilt towards either side in Pakistan's ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran is not advisable.

Meanwhile, Qaumi Watan Party Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao questioned why Pakistan had agreed to become a member of the coalition without first finding out the aims and objectives of the alliance.

The FO has avoided an immediate reaction to media statements by Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost who expressed reservations about Pakistan clearing Gen Sharif to lead the military alliance put together by Saudi Arabia.

Gen Sharif is likely to assume command of the anti-terrorism alliance, dubbed the ‘Muslim Nato’, in April.

The government had issued an NOC for Sharif to join the alliance after an understanding was reached between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the matter, retired Maj Gen Ijaz Awan, a defence analyst and close associate of the former army chief, had told Dawn.