Friday, June 2, 2017
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.
Fifteen hundred kilogrammes of explosives packed into a truck led to the death of 80 and injured an additional 400 in Kabul on Wednesday. Beyond this, the deadly bombing, reportedly targeting the Green Zone – which houses embassies, diplomatic offices, residences and the Resolute Support Mission compound – in the diplomatic district caused millions of private property damage within a stone’s throw from some of the most key areas in the country. With terrorists making it to Afghanistan’s most populated cities and causing colossal damage to both life and property, questions regarding the capability of the current government to minimise the violence caused by extremism will continue to be raised.
Some of Kabul’s residents are now taking to the streets asking for the resignation of the National Unity Government leaders President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah. They are not to be blamed however, if the government cannot even protect its citizens in the country’s capital, can it be expected to establish its writ across the country? The relative security of the capital was seen as proof of the government’s good work in the country. But now that the chaos has spilled over into Kabul making it just as dangerous as the rest of Afghanistan, can a fractured government hold on to the country when bombing after bombing is pulling the country apart at the seams?
No group has claimed responsibility for the incident as of yet, but at this point, it doesn’t even matter, because the Afghan government has not been able to control any of them.
Western powers will no longer look to provide more support than a few thousand soldiers – the injection of further troops by the US and NATO will also not provide relief from attacks such as this – the Afghan government and security forces have to find an answer to this conundrum on their own, but this looks more impossible by the day.