Pakistani politicians blast Saudi-led coalition amid row with Qatar
Senior Pakistani politicians and lawmakers have denounced a controversial Saudi-led military alliance that has been dealt a severe blow following a diplomatic rift among the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region.
According to reports, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a senior leader from Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Party (PTI), during a session of the lower house of parliament on Tuesday called for clarity in the Pakistani government’s stance regarding the issue.
Qureshi, who served as Pakistan’s former foreign minister, also expressed serious doubts over the Saudi-led alliance’s intentions to work together in the fight against terrorism.
"Initially, it was said that the coalition was being made against terrorism but Iran was kept away and now Qatar was set aside on the pretext of supporting terrorists."
The remarks came days after Farhatullah Babar, a senior senator from Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and a spokesman to former President Asif Ali Zardari, on Thursday told lawmakers that it was becoming "apparent" that the Saudi-led military alliance, headed by the former Pakistani army chief General Raheel Sharif, was against Iran.
"We were told that the alliance is against terrorism, but it appears it is against Iran," Babar said during a session of the senate, or the upper house of the parliament.
He also urged the Islamabad government to recall the retired general.
"Now that the cat is out of the bag, will the government call [Sharif] back?" Babur asked.
The senior leader of the PPP further asked why the government had issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) for the former army chief to assume the command of the coalition.
In addition, Pakistan's Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani wondered whether the government had disowned Sharif because the stance of the alliance towards Iran is contradictory to Pakistan's own relations with the neighboring country.
The news of the controversial appointment of the former army chief sparked controversy in Pakistan and was denounced by some politicians, retired army officers and intellectuals, as well as Shia and moderate Sunni Muslim leaders.
Opposition lawmakers consider the decision a violation of a parliamentary resolution passed in April 2015 that called for Pakistan to maintain a policy of neutrality, particularly in the Saudi aggression against Yemen.