Pakistan draws redlines for joining Saudi alliance

Published: May 29, 2017
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PM Nawaz Sharif with His Majesty King Salman of KSA. PHOTO: REUTERS

PM Nawaz Sharif with His Majesty King Salman of KSA. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to draw certain ‘redlines’ for becoming part of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism (IMAT) in an effort to avoid the negative fallout of its participation in the initiative that has potential to undermine ties with neighbouring Iran.

It was thought that the government had already joined the alliance when in April it granted permission to former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif to lead the 41-nation counter-terrorism alliance.

Officials, however, clarified that the final decision had not yet been taken.

What compelled Pakistan to have a second thought was the recent Arab Islamic-US summit in Riyadh where statements from Saudi authorities suggested that the alliance was meant to counter Iran as well as fighting terrorism.

US-Arab-Islamic Summit: Trump urges Muslim leaders to confront extremism

The government in principle agreed to be part of the Saudi initiative if its sole purpose was to fight terrorism and extremism, officials insisted. The final decision, however, will be taken once the terms of reference (ToRs) of the alliance are finalised, officials added.

The ToRs would be finalised during the meeting of defence ministers of the participating countries.

A senior official familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that Pakistan would present its set of proposals during the defence ministers meeting scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia in coming weeks.

Pakistan, according to the official, would recommend that the alliance should have clear objective that is to fight terrorism. Any deviation from this goal will not only undermine the alliance but also lead to more divisions in the Muslim world.

“We are very clear that we will join this alliance only to fight terrorism,” the official emphasised, adding that the government would stick to its stance.

Foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakria also indicated that Pakistan had yet to take a final decision on the Saudi alliance.

“What we need to understand is that the Terms of Reference (TORs) of the alliance are yet to be finalised. The defence ministers of the participating countries will meet and discuss the modalities of the coalition. We must wait until we have all the information to comment on its outcome. We shouldn’t indulge in speculations,” Zakria clarified at the last weekly briefing.

The government already gave a public commitment that it would not become part of any initiative whose aim is to target any other Islamic country, including Iran.

Pakistan left with limited options in Saudi-led Islamic military alliance

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on the floor of National Assembly assured that Pakistan would withdraw if the Saudi alliance turns out to be sectarian in nature.

Even Gen (Retd) Raheel before accepting the foreign job reportedly told Saudis that he would lead the grouping only if its main purpose was to fight terrorism and not aimed at any other Islamic country.

In order to avoid any strain with Iran, Pakistan pushed for mediation between Tehran and Riyadh. Islamabad even mooted the idea of inclusion of Iran in the alliance.

However, all those efforts could not succeed since Saudi Arabia and Iran have serious differences on regional disputes particularly the current hotspots in Middle East.

Main opposition parties—Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Peoples Party—have been calling for maintaining ‘neutrality’ in Arab-Iran rivalry.

But given longstanding strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is unlikely to completely withdraw from the alliance.  Nevertheless, its participation would only remain confined to counter-terrorism efforts, officials stressed.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • BrainBro
    May 29, 2017 - 10:13AM

    The Americans are in on this now. Don’t think Pakistan is needed any more.Recommend

  • Feroz
    May 29, 2017 - 10:36AM

    Making virtue out of necessity with more lies. The summit in Riyadh was not about observers but a congregation of all those who has signed in and taken the plunge together. Taking umbrage at a public slap on the face will not be able to make the ink on signed documents disappear. After jumping off a cliff can anyone get back on top ? Making fools of a gullible public shows how poorly the Rulers think about the intelligence of their subjects. That the Media entertains such deception by providing coverage, truly very unfortunate. Recommend

  • syed muhammad zeeshan ali
    May 29, 2017 - 10:54AM

    If it is not a politics then good decision otherwise decision just like a joke.Recommend

  • AHS
    May 29, 2017 - 10:58AM

    Dont worry Pakistan will join the Alliance since only real job is to protect the crown of Saudi Arabia in the garb of terrorism Recommend

  • abreez
    May 29, 2017 - 11:03AM

    Pakistan should distance itself from Arab-Iran tussle no matter what cost ultimately Pakistan will pay. Pakistan should tell both Arabs and Iran that Pakistan is interested in economic relations but as far as taking side in Arab-Iran tussle is concerned, Pakistan cannot afford this luxury. For Pakistan new challenges are emerging very fast and very soon there will be question of Pakistan of 1236 or 1308 and then answer will lie in united people and strong military of Pakistan, therefore, Pakistan cannot afford divided people and weak military of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmad
    May 29, 2017 - 11:13AM

    If it is still not clear to PMLN that this Saudi alliance is sectarian then this government is more than blind.Recommend

  • Sodomite
    May 29, 2017 - 12:20PM

    Finally sense is prevailing. Recommend

  • naive
    May 29, 2017 - 1:47PM

    He who pays calls the tune. Saudi pays and calls the tune. Our red lines don’t mean a thing. Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 29, 2017 - 2:02PM

    Pakistan draws red lines on joining Saudi alliance…..lets hope the red lines are not drawn in the sand and get washed away with the tide.Recommend

  • Farru
    May 29, 2017 - 2:51PM

    It seems that there is a growing realisation in power corridors of Pakistan that the country afford to antagonise Afghanistan, India and Iran at a same time.

    In case of any conflict with Iran, India can badly damage Pakistani interests at eastern borders or vice versa. Recommend

  • Ammar Ahmed
    May 29, 2017 - 2:52PM

    Good decision otherwise I doubt certain ‘Pakistanis’ could easily turn against their own countryRecommend

  • Asima Khan
    May 29, 2017 - 5:42PM

    Sorry but disengage with the Saudis now. Recommend

  • Rehan Arshad
    May 29, 2017 - 8:37PM

    No such decision has been taken or ever will be taken. This alliance is against terrorism and Iran is one of the countries which is exporting terror. Middle East in engulfed in fire because Iran-backed shia militias are massacring innocents in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

    Iran’s Army Chief few weeks ago threatened Pakistan of launching attack against it. They signed pact with India to start Chahbhar port against the interests of Pakistan.

    This alliance is against terrorism, not against any sect. She has are peacefully living in Saudi Arabia but in Iran, Sunnis are being persecuted.

    Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif had no agenda of giving speech on US Arab Islamic Summit. His main goal was to use the occasion to meet Qatari Prince to finalize the legal issues money trail as according to the letter and that’s why Akram Sheikh was there on the trip.

    In other events, both Nawaz & Qatari Prince weren’t seen as they were busy in solving this issue.

    It wasn’t the case of bad treatment by Saudis as it was reported by our pro-Iran media. He was offered to speak but he excused did to other issues.

    Prime Ministers & Presidents from 30+ Muslim countries were there but not a single one was received by Saudi King Salman as he was busy in US-Gulf summit with heads of Gulf states and US President Donald Trump.Recommend

  • Madame SiSI
    May 30, 2017 - 6:30AM

    Being a nuclear power Pakistan should instead recognize Israel immediately and forget about joining any alliances.Recommend

  • Eie
    May 30, 2017 - 9:22AM

    Pakistan should leave this alliance. We do not want to participate in any ugly sectarian wars. Pakistan should focus on improving relations with both Iran and India instead of destroying its relationships with neighbors due to Saudi influence. Recommend

  • ikram
    May 30, 2017 - 12:41PM

    Divide and rule the fools.Recommend

  • Ali
    May 30, 2017 - 1:10PM

    We can NOT afford to strain relations with Iran right now specially with India and Afghanistan completely hostile towards us. Diplomatic common sense screams of being a negotiator between Saudis and Iranis and take charge of the situation. Let’s see….Recommend

  • Asif
    May 30, 2017 - 1:58PM

    Saudi’s closed a deal with Trump worth $110 Billion of which most comprise of bombs, missiles and some delivery systems according to BOEING and Lockheed Martin website. BOEING has reported significant income from St Louis plant which makes the JDAM. After this, next $380 Billion will bring more grief and suffering.

    Unfortunately, these bombs will be showered within 500 miles of Riyadh and on fellow Muslims. Pakistan really need to think carefully weather to be a part of mass slaughter or peace maker? Recommend

  • Faisal
    May 30, 2017 - 5:21PM

    what kind of logic are we trying to pursue here? Iran is the main sponsor of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestine; Iran is providing extensive support to Bashar Al Asad who is slaughtering Muslims in Syria and Iran is the main backer of Houthi rebels in Yemen who have overthrown the elected government and killed so many civilians in their power grab. So how can you fight terrorism by not countering Iran?? its like saying I will swim the river but I won’t get wet! Secondly, Iran is already involved in Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon and to a lesser extent in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan. Pakistan has nothing to fear from Iran; Iran cannot afford to start trouble with Pakistan. So chill guys and wholeheartedly join the Saudi alliance – it is our chance to gain respect globally and to especially get close to the Gulf countries who have been doing so much for Pakistan financially, diplomatically, economically over the decades (e.g. 5 million Pakistanis living and working happily in Gulf countries). Recommend

  • Hamid
    May 30, 2017 - 5:24PM

    Pakistani leaders need to understand the Islamic history and should take advise from the true Islamic Scholars when it comes to making fundamental decisions, which concerns Islamic Creed (Tawheed). I believe our leaders are not equipped with such knowledge so reliance on true scholars is an absolute requirement. Recommend

  • Qasim
    May 31, 2017 - 9:04AM

    Islamic brotherhood, the best amongst you is who gets two Muslim brothers together. The west is dividing Muslims. Tolerance and brotherhood is need of time.Recommend

  • Faisal
    May 31, 2017 - 1:28PM

    @Qasim:
    No, the West is not dividing the Muslims. Its Iran that has been disrespecting Muslims since its 1979 revolution. Iran is a country which has many problems but the leaders in Iran since 1979 have chosen to interfere in other countries and hurt Muslims in so many places: Iran is active in Lebanon and using militias to keep its influence there to the detriment of Lebanese people; Iran is actively helping the Houthi rebels in Yemen who overthrew the elected govt. there and in the process killed so many civilians in their power grab. Iran is also interfering in Afghanistan, and it allows Indian spies to enter Pakistan (issuing Indians tourist visas), Iran is also sending arms to Bahrain to fuel unrest there and recently in Saudi Arabia as well it is interfering in places like Qatif province. The majority of the Muslims are not so weak that they ignore Iran’s evil acts and give it a free-pass. Even millions of Iranians living in Iran are fed up with their govt but dissent is shut down by those in power.
    So pls. stop blaming the West for our own internal mess. Recommend

  • Faisal
    May 31, 2017 - 2:14PM

    @BrainBro:
    how does it feel to know that India has NO ROLE WHATSOEVER when it comes to the Middle East :) Recommend

  • Sharaf Khan
    Jun 21, 2017 - 4:12PM

    @Rehan Arshad: You are talking the language of US and Israel. I do not like Iran supporting Syria but the rest of you accusations are none sense. Hezb and Huthi are legitimate freedom struggle. Recommend

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