Friday, June 2, 2017

Pakistan - Sartaj Aziz fails to satisfy Senate on Saudi alliance’s mandate

Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Thursday insisted that Pakistan is free to choose which activity of the Saudi-led Islamic military alliance it wants to participate in or not but failed to satisfy the Senate on the mandate of the 41-nation coalition.
Responding to a calling-attention notice moved by PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, Aziz said the Saudi foreign minister conveyed to him two years ago that member states would be free to decide if they want to take part in or abstain from any activity of the alliance.
“When it was announced back in 2015, it was clarified [by Saudis] that it would be a coalition rather than an alliance, which requires a formal agreement. It was also clarified that all members will decide by themselves which activity they would participate in and which they would not,” he said.
According to him, these activities could include political consultations, intelligence-sharing, capacity-building, developing counter-narrative and military cooperation.
Despite being known for his articulate style, Aziz this time did not have answers to queries put forward by opposition members and the Senate chairman, particularly about the perception of the Saudi coalition about Iran.
The adviser struggled to satisfy such apprehensions, prompting Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani to reiterate his earlier ruling on placing terms of reference (ToRs) for the coalition before parliament for a thorough debate. Aziz was either elliptical or termed some pointed questions hypothetical. Most of what he stated before the upper house was limited to information provided to the Government of Pakistan one and a half years back when the Saudis formally invited Islamabad to join the coalition. “At that time we were also told that a meeting of defence ministers will formulate programmes and mechanisms for this coalition. Since no such meeting has taken place, no ToRs have been formalised yet,” he said.
However, he insisted that Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran statements and the final declaration of last week’s Arab-US summit were of a political nature and did not suggest this coalition would be asked to use force against Iran.

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