Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday told lawmakers that Pakistani troops have been stationed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for ‘internal security’ reasons, not to take part in the Yemen war, as other lawmakers had feared.
The minister made the assurance while delivering a policy statement in the National Assembly in connection with the army’s February 15 announcement that it was sending troops to the Kingdom under an existing bilateral security pact– several thousand Pakistani soldiers are stationed in Saudi, and both countries undertook joint counter-terrorism exercises last year.
Lawmakers from the upper (Senate) and lower house (National Assembly) had expressed reservations regarding the implications of the move, and Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had directed the Foreign Ministry to explain its decision.
Asif Friday told members of the National Assembly (MNAs) that though soldiers had been stationed in the Kingdom, “We have not taken part in any across-the-border action by Saudi Arabia”.
The minister also discussed various crises in the Middle East and, without naming the United States (US), appeared to hold the superpower responsible for unrest in the region.
Terming the Syrian conflict a “fight for power”, Asif said that although he did not support dictatorship, “at least human lives were safe” under dictators in Syria. He also claimed that Iraq, Libya and other Middle Eastern countries had been destabilized in line with a conspiracy designed to scatter the Muslim ummah.
“Unfortunately, Muslim countries are not united on even a single issue, nor are they ready to talk to each other,” he complained, adding that the Muslim Ummah does not seem to need an external enemy.
“The Ummah seeks our help during their time of hardship, so we [Pakistan] have become a target of anger [of some international powers],” he claimed.
Asif also said “the powers which destabilized Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya were not Pakistan’s well-wishers”.
He then turned to the South Asia region and said that Pakistan had fought a “made-in-America jihad” against Russia in Afghanistan. “We committed the same mistake after 9/11,” he said, criticizing former rulers and accusing them of selling out for personal gain.
Despite the presence of the US with all its military might in Afghanistan, the production of heroin has increased from 200 tons to 9,000 tons, he complained.
“The Taliban are operating in 43 per cent of Afghanistan, and yet they blame us for facilitating the Haqqani Network,” he said.
“Everyone knows who introduced the militant Islamic State group to Afghanistan,” he added.
“The US wants Pakistan to become a proxy and defend its interests in Afghanistan, but we will not defend anyone else’s interests,” he added.
“Pakistan will only defend its own interests,” Asif asserted.
(The original report appeared in Dawn)