Saudi-led military alliance not against any country, says Pak foreign secretary

Islamabad [Pakistan], Apr.4 (ANI): Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said Tuesday Islamabad remains committed to its policy of non-interference in the conflicts of Muslim countries.

She gave the assurance during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs which discussed the issue of clearance given to former army chief retired General Raheel Sharif to lead the Saudi-led 39-nation Islamic military alliance and Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"The Islamic [military] alliance is against terrorism, not any [specific] country," Janjua said in response to a question by committee chairman Awais Leghari.

She was addressing concerns that Islamabad's decision to send the former army chief to lead the alliance will complicate the already fraught Pak-Iran ties.

The Dawn quoted Janjua, as saying that Pakistan is making efforts to reduce the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"It is difficult for Pakistan to maintain equal relations with both countries but Pakistan will not go against Iran's interests," she assured the panel.

General Raheel Sharif will not act against Iran as the head of the military alliance, she asserted.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) Shireen Mazari and Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised concerns that the Foreign Office's (FO) statements regarding the Saudi military coalition are contradictory and said that Pakistan must make careful decisions regarding the Islamic alliance.

The PTI leaders were of the view that a tilt towards either side in Pakistan's ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran is not advisable.

Meanwhile, Qaumi Watan Party Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao questioned why Pakistan had agreed to become a member of the coalition without first finding out the aims and objectives of the alliance.

The Foreign Office has avoided an immediate reaction to media statements by Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost who expressed reservations about Pakistan clearing Gen Sharif to lead the military alliance put together by Saudi Arabia.

Gen. Sharif is likely to assume command of the anti-terrorism alliance, dubbed the 'Muslim Nato', in April.

The government had issued an NOC for Sharif to join the alliance after an understanding was reached between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the matter, retired Maj Gen Ijaz Awan, a defence analyst and close associate of the former army chief, had told Dawn.

Earlier, the Foreign Office avoided reacting to a statement by Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost who expressed reservations about Pakistan clearing former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif to lead a 39-nation military alliance put together by Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said he would be looking into the matter. (ANI)