The prime minister’s top aide on foreign affairs has reassured a parliamentary panel that Pakistan has not made a U-turn on its Syria policy nor Pakistan-made arms will be used in any civil war.
A recent $1.5 billion cash ‘gift’ from a ‘friendly Muslim country’ triggered media speculation that Islamabad could have cut a secret deal on Syria in return for the money.
But Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, said on Monday that the money was ‘gifted’ by Saudi Arabia through the account of Friends of Democratic Pakistan.
Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Aziz said that Pakistan supports dialogue in Syria, which is the only way to resolve the fratricidal civil strife there. He added that Pakistan calls for immediate withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and groups from Syria.
“We support international efforts to find a peaceful Syria-led and inclusive solution being pursued under the Geneva peace process through a comprehensive political dialogue involving the entire spectrum of the Syria polity,” Aziz added.
“Pakistan favours rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners to the victims of the conflict, lifting of the siege of Syria towns and villages as well as establishment of a ‘transitional governing body’ with full executive powers.”
The senators expressed satisfaction over the clarification offered by Aziz. “The prime minister’s adviser has made it clear that Pakistan has not and will not change its policy [on Syria],” said ANP Senator Haji Adeel, who is also the chairperson of the Senate committee.
“We have also been assured that Pakistan will not supply arms and ammunition [to rebels] in Syrian civil war.”
Quoting Aziz, Senator Adeel said the $1.5 billion cash received from Saudi Arabia was a ‘gift’ which has been received through the account of Friends of Democratic Pakistan. “We have also been told that this grant has nothing to do with any policy shift on Syria or supply of weapons [to rebels],” he added.
PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said the committee members had expressed concern over the reports of some underhand deal with Saudi Arabia on the Syria imbroglio. Pakistan should stay away from regime-change efforts in Syria, he said.
PPP Senator Sughra Imam said that the ‘clandestine deal’ for $1.5 billion should not land the country in trouble because former military ruler Pervez Musharraf received $18 billion from the US for fighting the ‘war on terror’ in which the country suffered losses worth $78 billion.
The Senate committee also condemned the statement of a Uighur militant leader Abdullah Mansour, who is allegedly hiding somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders.
Mansour, leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party, said in a rare and brief interview that his group was gearing up for retribution against China to avenge the deaths of comrades in Beijing’s crackdown on the separatist movement.
Senator Mushahid tabled a resolution in the committee which expressed solidarity with China. The resolution urged the Pakistan government to not allow its territory under any circumstances to be used against any country.
The committee also asked the Foreign Office to officially clarify its position and condemn the statement of the militant leader.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2014.