Pakistan to stay neutral in Syria war

Published: April 10, 2017
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ISLAMABAD: Last week, US President Donald Trump finally ordered direct attacks against Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime in the wake of suspected chemical attack in the rebel held town that killed over 80 people and shook the entire world.

Trump did what his predecessor Barrack Obama could not. The direct intervention has put the US at odds with Russia, the main backer of Assad’s regime.

Pakistan may not have direct bearings of the evolving situation in Syria, but officials and former diplomats believe that the crises in the Middle East will certainly through another daunting foreign policy challenge for the country at a time when its recent move to allow a former army chief to lead a Saudi-led alliance is being questioned.

Flames of war

The current Syrian civil war, which began simply with pro-democracy protests back in 2011, has divided the key regional and international players.

Countries such as US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are supporting Syrian opposition groups to overthrow the current regime while Russia, China and Iran are in pro-Assad camp.

“And that’s the major challenge for Pakistan,” commented Ali Sarwar Naqvi, former Ambassador to Jordon. Naqvi said ensuring a delicate balance on Syria is a daunting task.

Since Syria has become the major battleground for proxy war between the regional and international players, Pakistan has maintained a position, many believe, is in line with Russia and Iran, something that is unusual considering Islamabad’s strong ties with Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Unlike Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, Pakistan has long been against the regime change through a foreign intervention.

“Pakistan is not taking sides. In fact our position is based on international law and principles of the UN,” Naqvi added explaining as to why Islamabad was against the regime change.

The former ambassador pointed out that current Syrian regime was recognised by the UN and hence Pakistan cannot say otherwise.

Another factor that compelled Pakistan to adopt this approach is to discourage practice of regime change through foreign intervention.

Pakistan fears that this will set a wrong precedent and in future other countries may also face the same fate.

US launches missiles at Assad’s airbase in Syria

Although, Pakistan has not yet given formal reaction to the US Tomahawk cruise missiles targeting Syrian airfield in western Syria, where it said the chemical weapons attack originated, informal interaction with officials suggested that Islamabad was not in favour of the ‘punitive strikes.’

One official said US conducted the attacks in haste since it was not yet clear who carried out the suspected chemical attacks. Syrian military has already denied and condemned the attacks that left over 80 people mostly children and women.

The official said US missile attack was not a solution to the problem. “At the end people of Syria are at the receiving ends be it through chemical or US missile attacks.

While Saudi Arabia, US and other western countries directly blamed Syrian regime and Russia for the chemical weapons attack, Pakistan condemned the incident but stopped short of blaming the Assad regime.

Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakria said Pakistan, as party to chemical weapons convention, was strictly against the use of such weapons. “Use of chemical weapons by anyone is condemnable,” Zakria told The Express Tribune.

About Pakistan’s position on the Syrian situation, the spokesperson said Pakistan urged all parties to find a peaceful solution to the crises.

“Syrian people have suffered immensely and all parties should address to alleviate the Syrian people’s sufferings.”

Observers believe that Pakistan’s current policy on Syria will be tested if the ongoing crises lead to a larger conflict among the regional and international powers vying for their influence in the volatile Middle East.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2017.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • S.Haider
    Apr 10, 2017 - 9:26AM

    All states see their own interests before taking any side. what is wrong and what is right doesn’t matter to them. US, Germany, UK, France should play a role in this humanitarian crisis. How cruel is the world by the way. Recommend

  • fahim
    Apr 10, 2017 - 10:20AM

    Pakistan should play role to promote peace in Syria and Iraq. Pak Army zindabadRecommend

  • Zaffar Ali
    Apr 10, 2017 - 11:21AM

    What is the purpose of getting involved in the Islamic military alliance if we are ought to stay neutral in the Syrian conflict. This clearly shows the intention as well as the concern of Saudi Arabia regarding this matter. I think now is the time to get involved in protecting Syrians from the massacre which is about to happen. In addition to Saudi Arabia, Turkey has also proved to be a big disappointment and has played a direct role in Syria’s downfall.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 10, 2017 - 11:25AM

    Pakistan may not receive any praise for remaining neutral in the Syrian crisis, but has my support Recommend

  • Money Printer
    Apr 10, 2017 - 12:10PM

    They said same for Yemen. In few months Pakistan will be sending troops on Saudia request.Recommend

  • ZZQ
    Apr 10, 2017 - 2:14PM

    A looser approach like always.

    At least Pakistan should condemn the brutal killings of innocent civilians… Or is that also against UN Charter???Recommend

  • Farru
    Apr 10, 2017 - 3:53PM

    We should remain neutral at any cost.

    We neither started this crisis nor we have openly supported any party. Countries (we all know which countries are responsible) that have created this crisis should deal with it. Recommend

  • Ali khan
    Apr 10, 2017 - 5:19PM

    We Pakistani people fully support our Russia brothers.Recommend

  • cautious
    Apr 11, 2017 - 1:22AM

    Saddam gassed his people and Pakistan said nothing – Assad has gassed his people at least 4 times and Pakistan still remains silent. Silence isn’t neutral – it’s morally bankrupt. Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 11, 2017 - 12:23PM

    @cautious:
    Can you provide believable evidence that Assad gassed his people? I have noticed that you never comment on the hundreds of thousand of people who have died in the Middle-East as a result of Western brutality.Recommend

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