Pakistan nears its moment of truth

Published: November 20, 2017
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A file photo of Saudi military exercise. PHOTO COURTESY: WORLD TRIBUNE

A file photo of Saudi military exercise. PHOTO COURTESY: WORLD TRIBUNE

ISLAMABAD: The government already had its hands full dealing with internal problems including the ongoing Islamabad sit-in by religious groups, and now it has to decide on a tricky foreign policy matter that will have both domestic and external repercussions.

Pakistan needs to finalise the extent of its participation in the Saudi-led coalition of Muslim countries later this month when the defence ministers of member countries meet in Riyadh.

The defence ministers from Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) are due to meet in the Saudi capital on November 26 to discuss the terms of reference (ToR) of the grouping.

Saudi state media confirmed that all member countries have been invited to the defence ministers’ meeting.

Pakistan draws redlines for joining Saudi alliance

“The meeting aims to consolidate bonds of cooperation and integration within the coalition and represents the effective beginning of the IMCTC efforts, which included 41 Islamic states, to coordinate and unify efforts in fighting extremism and extremism in addition to integration with other international efforts,” according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

It said the coalition was established to achieve the coalition’s message and provide an institutional platform for proposals and discussions in order to facilitate ways of cooperation among the member states and the countries supporting initiatives within the framework of fields of military, intellectual, media and combating terrorism financing.

In principle, Islamabad has agreed to be part of the coalition and has already allowed former Army Chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif to head the force.

The extent of Pakistan’s participation on the ground in the alliance, however, has yet to be decided.

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

The government said the scope of its participation would be determined once the ToRs of the grouping are finalised.

Given the possible implications, coupled with domestic pressure, Pakistan is treading a careful path as it wants to maintain a balance in its ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa recently visited Tehran where he held talks with senior Iranian leadership. One of the issues that came under discussion was thought to be the Saudi alliance.

Pakistan has already made it clear that it will not become a party to any move targeting another sovereign Islamic country.

Under Crown Prince Muhammad bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s ties with Iran are likely to further deteriorate, a scenario that would certainly test the skills of Pakistani diplomats.

Before taking a final decision, it is expected that the government would table the ToRs before Parliament.

In 2015, the government also took the Saudi request seeking Pakistani troops for its campaign in Yemen to Parliament.

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At the time, the National Assembly and Senate passed a unanimous resolution urging the government to stay away from the conflict involving other Muslim countries, while at the same time reiterating full support to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The lip-service move caused an unusual strain on Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

Opposition parties, including Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Peoples Party, have insisted that the April 10, 2015 joint resolution of Parliament should serve as a guideline for the government.

 

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Reader Comments (6)

  • vinsin
    Nov 20, 2017 - 1:23PM

    From economic perspective, Pakistan should support Saudi Arabia. Iran has nothing to offer to Pakistan.Recommend

  • Muzu
    Nov 20, 2017 - 2:49PM

    We have two fronts open, Can’t afford to open a third one. Pakistan has two choose wisely.Recommend

  • Sharaf Khan
    Nov 20, 2017 - 3:50PM

    @vinsin:
    Iran has always given us support on each and every international platform. They were the first country to recognise Pakistan.Recommend

  • Azhar Nawaz
    Nov 20, 2017 - 4:41PM

    You can’t say Pakistan should join for economic reasons – if that is supposed to be a good reason then no one should complain when Pakistan joined Bush and the West to bomb Afghanistan – simple these wars raged by Saudi Arabia are started by the Clown sorry Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.Recommend

  • Faryal Minhas
    Nov 20, 2017 - 4:46PM

    We must support Saudi Arabia, as our nation’s have common interests, what are we going to gain from Yemen or Iran?Recommend

  • Muhammad Abdullah
    Nov 21, 2017 - 9:02AM

    Pakistan should use all it’s energy to defuse the situation conflict is not in our interest, if it doesn’t work then we must decide on the basis of principles. It doesn’t matter if Iran is Shia or Saudi Arabia is Sunni, we have to use our basic values and principles to decide our stance.

    Which ever country crosses it’s limits should be dealt accordingly.Recommend

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