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Pakistan would not go against Iran interests: Pak Foreign Secretary

05 April, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said on Tuesday that it was difficult for Pakistan to maintain equal relations with both the countries, but Pakistan would not go against Iran's interests.

Briefing members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, who met at the Parliament House - with Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari in the chair- to discuss the issue of clearance given to former army chief Gen (r) Raheel Sharif to lead the Saudi-led 41-nation Islamic Military Alliance and Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan was making efforts to reduce tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

She informed the Lower House that Pakistan remained committed to its policy of non-interference in the conflicts of Muslim countries. She told the committee that the Islamic Military Alliance was against terrorism, not any country. "Pakistan wants Muslim countries to stand united against terrorism"

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

"Raheel Sharif would not act against Iran as the head of the military alliance," she asserted, and informed the lawmakers that Oman was the 41st country to have become a member of the alliance. About the former army chief joining the alliance, she said that any retired military officer was free to accept any job.

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

He said Pakistan's tilt towards either side - Saudi Arabia and Iran - was 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.

Briefing the lawmakers, Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan would continue to observe the neutrality aspect in relations with "our brotherly Islamic countries".

At present, the world was passing through a transitory phase and realignment of relations among different states was in process, she said. "In this connection, Pakistan has challenges as well as opportunities to tap the potential of these fast changing international scenarios."

She said that Pakistan and Iran enjoyed cordial and brotherly relations, and had no border disputes between them. She also said trade with Iran would touch new heights after easing of international sanctions from Iran.

In the end, she welcomed the views and inputs of the members on the subject and hoped that the support of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in the form of its recommendation would be a guideline for maintaining the country's delicate relations with its neighbours and other important power players of the present time.

The committee chairman appreciated the briefing and acknowledged the keen interest demonstrated by the members, and further informed the committee that they would continue to discuss this subject in the next meetings in the presence of experts invited by the committee with their consent.

The chairman directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explore the possibilities of setting up a NADRA office in the Pakistani High Commission in Malaysia in consultation with the Ministry of Interior to solve the problems of the Pakistan community living in Malaysia. He also placed on record a document containing the names of the countries having dual nationality arrangement with the government of Pakistan.

It may be mentioned here that the Foreign Office had avoided an immediate reaction to media statements by Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost who expressed reservations about Pakistan clearing Gen (r) Raheel Sharif to lead the military alliance put together by Saudi Arabia.

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