Saudi military alliance: Pakistan seeks to find a middle ground

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to take the issue of joining the Saudi-led 41 nation military alliance against terrorism to parliament in a calculated move to ensure a delicate balance in a crucial foreign policy decision that has huge repercussions for Pakistan.

In principle, Islamabad agreed to be part of the Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism (IMAT) as it already granted permission to former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif to head the grouping.

However, the extent of Pakistan’s participation in the alliance has yet to be decided. In the wake of the recent Arab-US summit in Riyadh where Saudi leadership used the occasion to target Iran, the country’s civil and military authorities have decided to tread a careful path.
There has been a realisation within the policymakers that the alliance would create further sectarian divisions, said officials familiar with the development.

Last week, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz also conceded before the Senate that Riyadh conference had widened the sectarian divide in the Muslim world.

One official said Pakistan was stuck between the ‘devil and the deep blue sea’ meaning that neither it could say completely ‘No’ to Saudi Arabia nor could afford antagonising neighbouring Iran.

“So, we are trying to find a middle ground. We want to ensure a balance in our ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran,” the official explained.

In order to achieve that difficult task, the official said the government would present the terms of reference (ToRs) of the military alliance before parliament for approval.

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