Pakistan’s inclusion in Saudi alliance sparks confusion

Published: December 16, 2015
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on December 15, 2015, shows Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holding a press conference on December 14, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on December 15, 2015, shows Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holding a press conference on December 14, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on December 15, 2015, shows Saudi Defence Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holding a press conference on December 14, 2015. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO: CHANNEL 4 SCREENSHOT

Saudi Arabia’s inclusion of Pakistan in a 34-nation military alliance against terrorism sparked much confusion on Tuesday after officials in Islamabad said they were unaware of any such development.

In a rare news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman announced the formation of new military alliance of Islamic countries, including Pakistan. He said the alliance will coordinate efforts against terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, but offered few concrete indications of how the military efforts might proceed.

Pakistan included in Saudi Arabia’s 34-state Islamic military alliance against terrorism

The announcement cited “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorise the innocent.”

Asked if the new alliance would focus just on the Islamic State, the Saudi minister said it will confront “any terrorist organisation that appears in front of us.”

The Saudi state new agency, SPA, mentioned Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan among the 34 Islamic countries which are part of the military alliance – Iran, Syria and Iraq are not part of it. It added the coalition will have a joint operations centre in Riyadh to coordinate and support military operations.

When contacted, a senior official of Pakistan’s Foreign Office said they were gathering details about the newly formed alliance. “We came to know about it (the alliance) through news reports. We have asked our ambassador in Saudi Arabia to get details on it,” he said, suggesting that Pakistan has been caught off guard by the Saudi announcement.

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Separately, a senior government functionary told The Express Tribune that he could not confirm whether Pakistan had joined the Saudi alliance.

“We have been cooperating with Saudi Arabia on counter-terrorism efforts but I am not sure we are going to be part of any military alliance,” insisted the official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue.

He said Pakistan in principle had never joined any military alliance without UN backing. “That was the reason we stayed away from the Yemen conflict,” he said.

The official said Pakistan would not send its troops on foreign soil even if “we become part of this new coalition.” “But we have not yet officially articulated our position on this so wait and see,” he maintained.

Saudi Arabia also mentioned Pakistan among the list of countries which were part of its alliance against the Houthi rebels in Yemen earlier this year. But Islamabad distanced itself from the Saudi alliance and instead called for a political solution to the conflict. The National Assembly also passed a unanimous resolution urging the government not to send its troops on the foreign soil.

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Pakistan’s reluctance to become part of the Saudi-led alliance is attributed to both domestic and regional compulsions. The new Saudi alliance potentially can put it at odds with Iran, as well as Russia, something that makes the situation difficult for Pakistan.

Islamabad, according to officials here, wants to tread a careful path as it can neither afford any strain in ties with Iran nor undermine efforts to improve ties with Russia by joining the Saudi alliance.

However, at the same time it cannot turn down a Saudi request. Insiders said Saudi leadership discussed the formation of new alliance with army chief General Raheel Sharif during his visit to Riyadh in November.

Sources said the army chief backed Saudi efforts to deal with terror threats but it was not clear whether he had given any commitment for joining the military alliance.

Washington has welcomed the creation the new Saudi-led alliance against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbours have been locked in nine months of warfare with Iran-allied rebels in neighboring Yemen, launching hundreds of air strikes there. Especially after a rash of attacks on Western targets claimed by Islamic State in recent months, the United States has increasingly said it thinks that firepower would better be used against IS.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Panwala
    Dec 16, 2015 - 9:11AM

    Pakistan and KSA relationship: “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”Recommend

  • Ammar
    Dec 16, 2015 - 9:22AM

    Pakistan should stay out of it just like we did in Yemen. Clearly it is a coalition against Shias, because countries like Iran Iraq Syrian Govt were left out. This will isolate 50 million shias of Pakistan and worsen secetarian tensions. With oil prices in a free fall and Opec is dismay Saudis are getting frustrated, hence impulsive decisions like this are being made. Recommend

  • Aga Majid
    Dec 16, 2015 - 10:47AM

    Pakistan stay out of this alliance.We are asking for ISIS interference in Pakistan.Let ISIS fight with this Alliance.We have Bharat at our door,We dont need more enemies.Recommend

  • umer hayat
    Dec 16, 2015 - 11:12AM

    alliance to protect monarches not islamic countries for sureRecommend

  • ashfaq
    Dec 16, 2015 - 12:24PM

    What an indecent way to speak on behalf of 34 countries without even consulting or sharing a word with them.ITs a sheer insult to all those countries they were not even shared a bit about its announcement, rather it speaks of the BOASTING of Black gold money that makes these Arabs feel as they can do anything they want.

    Besiedes reasons , logic’s and realities, who created DAESH, ISIS , Alqaeda, who supported them, financed and looked after…not a secret.
    Now just look the the proposed components, that speak itself as a CUTTING knife to tear the Muslim unity rather fighting terrorism..You dont even bother to check someones consent or will and announce on their behalf…

    What a joke, counties who are dead against the ideology,of DAESH and ISIS and fighting on ground against those KHWARIJ are kept out, so it needs not a BIG mind to think, what they want, who’s behind and whats the real motive?

    The reality being, Middle eastern monarchies are feeling themselves at a level where their own entity is at verge, because of thier policies, strategies and abilities.US and Israel now trying to use this already FIRED tool to marginalize Iran and its allies around KSA.
    For Pakistam we are not to get involved in such an alliance thats known just to broaden and increase the gap and differences among different communities in Islamic society..We are a very fragile society already victim of this imported terrorism from Middle eastern countries and cant afford such stupid ventures that will create more division and strifes in our society.Recommend

  • V. C. Bhutani
    Dec 16, 2015 - 12:41PM

    It seems KSA constructed its coalition with the pieces that it thought it had. No one in KSA seems to have thought it politic to consult Pakistan. In terms of political and military power Pakistan is far ahead of the other members of the proposed coalition.
    The undoing of the coalition may flow from the exclusion of Iran. KSA needs to re-organize its relations with Iran and forget about Iran’s Shia majority people. The problem of terror is far more important than possible victory or defeat in the Shia-Sunni dispute.
    There is no point in leaving out Indonesia. The whole exercise seems to be evidence of KSA’s lack of diplomatic finesse. It is a question whether anyone in KSA really understands international relations. High time they paid more attention to international relations.
    KSA has contributed in a big way to the promotion of fundamentalism. The world is aware that Wahabi influence became pervasive in KSA in the later part of the 19th century and soon came to be regarded by Islamic communities elsewhere who felt persuaded to try to conform to Wahabi teaching. Overflowing with petrodollars, KSA became the source of much funding for madrasas in Pakistan and perhaps in other countries. By doing this the rulers of KSA were really only earning sabaab. In the bargain, however, Pakistani communities who were really not too far removed from conservative practices became ready fodder for the new teaching made possible by Saudi munificence. From pluralist tolerance to conservative attitude to fundamentalist radical outlook on the rest of the world was a natural progression which it is now too late to even obstruct, let alone stop.
    There has been some writing from Pakistan talking about Pakistan’s support to obscurantist and radical ideas which did not take long to metastasize into terror directed alike at non-Muslims and non-Salafi Muslims. The world is today witnessing this part of the growth of Islamist zealotry which expresses itself around the world and at the moment epitomized in the Islamic State.
    The fight against the Islamic State shall not be easy. There are many, e.g., Turkey, Iran, KSA, who act in ways that give relief to IS and make things difficult for those who think they are fighting against IS. Many of these latter, e.g., USA, Russia, France, UK (not necessarily in that order), seem to be pursuing objectives which are really self-defeating because they seem to be fighting on both sides of the line. Therefore, IS shall not be defeated in a hurry. This will call forth readiness on the part of world powers to call things by their proper names and to treat them for what they are, namely, sponsors of terror. These include Turkey, Iran, KSA, and Pakistan.
    V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, 16 Dec 2015, 1310 ISTRecommend

  • Ashraf
    Dec 16, 2015 - 12:52PM

    Remember the 2 billion dollars that the Saudis gave Pakistan? It was not a gift. Recommend

  • GKA
    Dec 16, 2015 - 1:15PM

    @ashfaq: Foriegn policy of Pakistan is managed by the army. And the article is clear that this alliance was discussed with Raheel. There is no need to consult the Pakistani foreign ministry or the Pakistani peopleRecommend

  • Dec 16, 2015 - 3:52PM

    IF and WHEN the new Islamic military coalition EVER gets off the ground…….to who’s advantage will it be? Saudia, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE.
    Will the Islamic states ever allow their tribal loyalties and traditions to be intruded into? Never, because they want to sustain their family wealth and rule over the unfortunate citizens.
    This is another ploy of Saudia and USA that aims to enmesh and embroil the Muslim countries against each other and make feeble attempts to drive out Russia from Syria. Remember Afghanistan.
    Then the world’s citizens and media will have a field day at ISLAMOPHOBIA. SalamsRecommend

  • Hari Om
    Dec 16, 2015 - 3:53PM

    Is this “confusion” a case of the Punjabi Dominated Military doing the usual thing of bypassing the Civilian Administration and secretly joining the Saudi Arabian led Alliance or instead a case of damage control by Pakistan to limit sectarian fallout of secretly joining a Saudi led Alliance that does not include Shia Iran after Sunni Wahabbi Saudi Arabia let the cat of the bag?Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Dec 16, 2015 - 4:52PM

    We are a very fragile society already victim of this imported terrorism from Middle eastern countries and cant afford such stupid ventures that will create more division and strifes in our society.

    It would seem sir, that your Government does not take note of your opinion? You should be addressing the Sharifs and not ET social forum for your feelings.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor
    Dec 16, 2015 - 5:30PM

    We are a very fragile society already victim of this imported terrorism from Middle eastern countries and cant afford such stupid ventures that will create more division and strifes in our society.

    And pray what, if one may ask, was the recent mission of your military Sharif in Saudi Arabia? Certainly not to discuss about the weather conditions or the moral of their military?

    Rex MinorRecommend

    Dec 16, 2015 - 5:46PM

    @Rex Minor:
    IF you can see the real target, its Army, Sharifs or politicians of Pakistan are none to discuss.The ploy is directed to malign Pak Army and ignite that BOMB to weaken this bonding force and create anarchy in our society.We can see the REAL MASTER behind as US standing and giving its CONSENT and WILL and Support.
    We are confident, Army is now leaded by a real PAKISTANI and not by someone who’ s long indebted of countless favors from Aale Saud. Be sure, its not going to happen,, we need our own country in order , never to send our soldiers to be part of an alliance that is meant to fight those who are in reality enemies of DAEASH and not against DAESHRecommend

  • JD
    Dec 16, 2015 - 6:36PM

    So its against any group that stands against the alliance? Well TTP is standing against us. We are in if a portion of the army from the alliance is stationed in Afghanistan, just like NATO once was.Recommend

  • Bewildered
    Dec 16, 2015 - 6:36PM

    I wonder why no other country included in the alliance has expressed astonishment or any confusion except Pakistan. Perhaps too many anti KSA are in our Foreign Office. Pakistan shouldn’t lose this golden opportunity and use it for repairing the damage done during the Yemen saga, as this alliance is not against any country, but against terrorists of the worst kind. By not joining this alliance Pakistan will permanently sour relations with the closest of its friends like KSA, UAE, and Turkey. I doubt Iran, Iraq, and Syria would have joined the alliance even if requested by KSA. And who knows KSA might already have. You cannot keep everyone happy, especially all the time. You stand with what is right and with your national interests. Fighting against the worst kind of terrorists is the right thing to do. You don’t wait until they knock at your door. Pakistan has already suffered a lot by following this passive approach.Recommend

  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Dec 16, 2015 - 7:38PM

    Brilliant move by the Saudis!

    Asking others to fight for them only for ‘Yemen’ did not work. By creating a ‘coalition against ISIS’, they leave the intended participants of said coalition no room to back out! Backing out of the coalition is tantamount to ‘supporting ISIS’.

    Now that there is a coalition against the ‘ISIS’, first stop will be Yemen; where the Saudis are getting clobbered!! They desperately need help there. Recommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Dec 16, 2015 - 9:20PM

    Nawaz Sharif is indebted to the Saudis and we should better ask him what kind deal or promise he has made to the Saudis. Pakistan must and should stay away from this alliance, we have problems of our own which are created mostly by the Saudis by exporting and funding their brand of Islam, the Wahabism in Pakistan. I got news for the Saudis, they are the ones who has created this monster all over the Islamic world and they have no room to be talking against ISIS and the likes because they funded it and still funding to impose their far out ideology of Wahabism on others. Pakistanis made the right decision to keep away from Yemen’s sectarian conflict and keep away from any Saudi military adventurism. Recommend

  • Skywalker
    Dec 17, 2015 - 1:11AM

    Get ready for demonstrations in support of this from JI and ilks.Recommend

  • Azam Khan Swati
    Dec 17, 2015 - 2:18AM

    Saudis have already paid for pak army support and the supply of nuclear weapons in case of need. This is just a formalityRecommend

  • Dec 17, 2015 - 11:22AM

    What Pakistan did in Yemen case was the RIGHTEST and wisest decision.We have now proof as they had pleaded then as HOUTHIS attacking MAKKA and MADINA and after almost a year you can better understand what was their objective.You find your only survival in obeying and following your ARAB dudes and not considering your own sovereign position and stature..
    This US-Israel design to aggravate the fragile situation in ME by fueling the fire among different Islamic countries was targeting Pakistan Army to drag in this venture.When they failed to do so, now they come up with another ploy to make their ILL will come true.
    Pakistan has been real victim of this terrorism originated from ME and we fought our own war, sacrificed 80000 Pakistanis and around 10000 soldiers, no one bothered to send their SACRED troops for your help…Recommend

  • Kayani
    Dec 17, 2015 - 1:22PM

    @V. C. Bhutani:
    Your essay is too long. Brevity might be a good concept to assimilate.Recommend

  • Kayani
    Dec 17, 2015 - 1:32PM

    The golden prize for Pakistan will be membership into the Arab world !! Imagine Islamic Arab Republic of Pakistan !!!Recommend

  • Wizarat
    Dec 17, 2015 - 2:40PM

    Well Khalil

    Pakistanis are being taken for granted, It is about time an independent nation with so called functioning parliament at least get something out of this Saudi Kid’s (Salman) needs.
    It is a shame that the Pakistani Mission in Jidda and Riyadh even did not know anything about it prior to its announcement.

    Pakistan should follow the Omanis in these matters, it appears that the only sane Arab rulers are the Omanis.

    Pakistani passport is treated like dirt in these Arab countries, at least get a visa waiver for umra and hajj from them for all Pakistanis with no exclusions.Recommend

  • Wizarat
    Dec 17, 2015 - 2:43PM

    Saudis need Pakistani Forces to protect them from Houthis as the Houthis are advancing in from Yemen. This has nothing to do with Terrorism but it is self preservation and continuation of Saudi regime.Recommend

  • AK
    Dec 17, 2015 - 3:40PM

    And the Saudis who have no practical experience of war will lead it. Should we try to know who is truly behind this monkey-alliance? We all know the answer.Recommend

  • prabhjyot singh madan
    Dec 17, 2015 - 5:29PM

    You keep your part of Kashmir, we keep ours, easy access to all Kashmiri brothers and sisters, no more partitions, enough is enough, Punjab got divided and my ancestors suffered a lot so what is so special about j&k . Ladakh, Buddhist, Jammu , Hindu, hates you because of your failed economy, the militants only survive because they don’t know what to do to earn a bread after it is over, relax and save your country paaji, Rab rakhaRecommend

    Dec 17, 2015 - 7:52PM

    U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter welcomed the idea of the 34– state Islamic Alliance against terrorism. During the announcement by Saudi Arabia to form this 34-state Islamic alliance Secretary Carter welcomed the initiative and said that it “appears to be very much aligned with something that we have been urging for quite some time, which is greater involvement by Sunni-Arab countries in the campaign to combat ISIL.”

    He added that a Saudi-led coalition in the region would have the ability “to promote what we know is necessary in the long run for the defeat of ISIL in Iraq and in Syria. And in the long run defeating terrorism in the region would require “replacement of their [Daesh’s] tyrannical rule with local rule that gives a decent life back to people.”

    If we want to put an end to Daesh, we need to have more global cooperation.

    Ali Khan
    Digital Engagement Team, US CENTCOMRecommend

  • Farooq
    Dec 17, 2015 - 11:13PM

    @prabhjyot singh madan:
    Madan ji, its 21st century now, we cant bound other people to live as we want.Its up-to the people of Kashmir whether they want to keep annexed with India , revert to Pakistan or else.This sole right is universally owned by Kashmiris themselves.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Dec 22, 2015 - 8:09PM

    Pakistan should stay away from these issues and should remain neutral.Our army is a national army comprises of sunnis , shias. Morever we should keep healthy relations with Iran , Russia, but this doesnot mean that we can offend our friends KSA and Turkey .Recommend

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