Defense Minister: Pakistan to Quit Saudi Coalition if Iran Targeted
“Pakistan does not wish to be a part of any sectarian alliance,” Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told the country’s senate on Tuesday. “Our efforts have been and will be geared towards eradicating militancy,” he added, Alwaght reported.
The defense minister said that Pakistani troops have been deployed in Saudi Arabia, but Pakistan will not take side in disputes among Muslim countries including Iran and Yemen.
He said that Pakistan had good brotherly relations with Iran, which played an important role in the success of recently held Economic Cooperation Organization summit. The Iranian President attended that conference with a large delegation, he added.
He said,” It was high time to remove all barriers in progress of Muslim Ummah as due to foreign interventions many Muslim countries were facing a difficult time. We have to connect bonds of love and affection to strengthen the Muslim Ummah.”
Asif noted that Pakistan possessed a respectable position among the Muslim world for being a nuclear power and having superior defense capabilities, and had always been ready to play a mediatory role among two brotherly Muslim nations whether those were Saudi Arabia and Iran, or Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Pakistani general Raheel Sharif was selected last year by Riyadh as the commander of the Saudi-led alliance of Muslim-majority countries allegedly aimed at counter-terrorism. But this prompted concerns among politicians and within the army command that Pakistan was becoming too involved in an organization that excluded major Muslim countries, namely Iran and Iraq.
A statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA in December 2015 said the new coalition would have 34 members. It also said the coalition would be based in Riyadh to “coordinate and support military operations” against terrorism.
The states it listed as joining the new coalition included Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and several African nations.
It did not include Iran as well as Syria and Iraq, leading to speculation that it could become a sectarian toll at the hands of the Saudi regime.