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Pak grudgingly welcomes Saudi-led anti-terrorism coalition

Pakistan today grudgingly welcomed close ally Saudi Arabia’s initiative to forge a 34-nation coalition to fight terrorism amid reports that Islamabad was not consulted on its inclusion in the group.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) said in a sort of explanatory statement that the country has consistently supported all regional and international efforts to combat militancy, extremism and terrorism and has extended its full support and cooperation to international community.

“It is in this context that Pakistan welcomes the formation of the 34-nation alliance to counter terrorism and is awaiting further details to decide the extent of its participation in different activities of the alliance,” the statement said.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close, cordial, and brotherly relations. Both countries condemn terrorism and cooperate in the efforts to eliminate this menace,” it said.

The statement came in the wake of local media reports saying that Pakistan was not consulted by the Saudis before announcing it as part of the new coalition.

The Dawn reported that Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told media that he was surprised to read the news that Saudi Arabia had named Pakistan as part of the alliance.

“He said he had asked the country’s ambassador in Riyadh to get a clarification from Saudi Arabia on the matter,” the paper reported.

The Express Tribune reported that a senior official of the Foreign Office said they were still gathering details about the newly-formed alliance.

“We came to know about it (the alliance) through news reports,” he was quoted in the report, suggesting that Pakistan had been caught off guard by the Saudis.

Separately, a senior government functionary told the Express Tribune that he could not confirm whether Pakistan had joined the Saudi alliance.

“We have been cooperating with Saudi Arabia on counter -terrorism efforts but I am not sure we are going to be part of any military alliance,” insisted the official who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.

He said Pakistan in principle had never joined any military alliance without UN backing.

“That was the reason we stayed away from the Yemen conflict,” he said.

The official said Pakistan would not send its troops on foreign soil even if “we become part of this new coalition”.

“But we have not yet officially articulated our position on this so wait and see,” he maintained.

Saudi Arabia announced yesterday that it had established a coalition of Muslim nations to support military operations in strife-ridden Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan.

The list of coalition countries included Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. However, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are not part of it.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has named Pakistan as part of its military alliances without Islamabad’s knowledge and consent.

The Saudis earlier this year included Pakistan as part of a coalition that carried out operations in Yemen and a Pakistani flag was displayed at the alliance’s media centre.

Pakistan later declined to join the Yemen war.