Pakistan hunting with the fox and running with the hare

Dubai [UAE], Mar. 29 (ANI): Pakistan is pursuing a two faced policy of trying to befriend Iran and at the same time maintaining close ties with Saudi Arabia, according to informed sources and in the process is angering both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

As proof of the two faced policy, the Pakistani Government officially announced that former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General (Retd.) Raheel Sharif would soon head the Saudi -led the military alliance of 39 Islamic States against 'terrorism and extremism'.

While speculation about Gen. Sharif's likely new role had started doing the rounds immediately after he completed his tenure as Pakistan's COAS, there was a conscious effort on the part of the Pakistani establishment to avoid giving any definite response in this matter. The Pakistani response ranged from expressing ignorance to stating that it had not given Gen Sharif a 'no objection' on the matter.

Lately, Pakistan has been attempting a balancing act with regard to its policy in the Middle East by increasing engagement with Iran, while at the same time maintaining ties with historical allies led by Saudi Arabia. This was visible in the April 2015 decision by Pakistan to stay away from the Saudi-led campaign against Yemen, viewed as an attempt by Pakistan to woo Iran.

What is not known to Iran is that while publicly Pakistan did not join the campaign against Yemen, this did not stop the Pakistani Government from sending military advisors to assist Riyadh in its Yemen operations. Pakistan also assured Riyadh that in case the conflict spread north towards Saudi Arabia, Pakistan would step in. Pakistan also supported the Saudi Government's decision to execute Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

With the confirmation that Gen. Sharif would be heading the Islamic Military Alliance (IMA), which does not include Iran, questions are likely be raised in Tehran about Pakistan's seriousness and sincerity in improving ties with Iran.

It is learnt that earlier this year when the Iranian Foreign Ministry had expressed its unease about Gen. Sharif accepting the appointment as the Commander of the IMA, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry officials are believed to have dismissed the news as media propaganda with no basis. It is now apparent that the Pakistani side had misled the Iranians on the matter.

In fact, as per sources in Pakistan, Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Muhammad Bin Salman had first offered Gen. Sharif the post of the IMA Commander in January 2016, when he was the army chief of Pakistan. This offer was made again in August 2016, when the Crown Prince travelled to Pakistan on an official trip. The Pakistani civilian leadership under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was aware of the offer for close to a year and supported Gen Sharif considering the same positively as it was seen as a move that would greatly augment Pakistan's stature among the Islamic countries.

It is obvious that Pakistan is playing a game of deception with Iran, wherein in spite of assuring Iran of its sincerity in investing in the relationship, it continues to strategically collaborate with its adversaries.(ANI)