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‘Muslim NATO’ not against any country, says Pakistan

Islamabad: Pakistan remains committed to its policy of non-interference in the conflicts of Muslim countries and the Saudi-led military alliance was not against any country, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said on Tuesday.

Janjua was deposing before a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs which discussed the issue of clearance given to former Army chief General Raheel Sharif to lead the 41-nation military alliance being dubbed as “Muslim NATO”, and Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“The Islamic (military) alliance is against terrorism, not any (specific) country,” Janjua was quoted by Dawn as saying in response to a question by committee chairman Awais Leghari.

She was addressing concerns that Islamabad’s decision to send Sharif to lead the alliance will complicate the already fraught Pakistan-Iran ties.

The Foreign Secretary said Pakistan was 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.

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

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed concern that the Foreign Office’s statements regarding the Saudi military coalition were contradictory and said that Pakistan must make careful decisions regarding the Islamic alliance.

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

The government had issued a No-Objection Certificate for Sharif to join the alliance after an understanding was reached between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the matter, Major General (retd) Ijaz Awan, a defence analyst and close associate of the former army chief, told Dawn.

–IANS