Pakistan 'surprised' at its inclusion in Saudi 34-country anti-terrorism coalition
Pakistan has said it was “surprised” to be included as part of Saudi Arabia’s 34-country coalition against “terrorism” as it it had not been consulted beforehand.
Talking to journalists on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said he had not been aware of his country’s inclusion until he read the news reports.
He said that the country’s ambassador in Riyadh had been contacted for clarification.
Another senior official also confirmed that Pakistan had not been consulted prior to inclusion, according to the local Dawn newspaper.
Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presented the formation of the coalition during a press conference on Tuesday.
He said that the coalition would “not only” target the Islamic State group but “any terrorist organisation that appears in front of us."
A statement released by the Saudi Press Agency, which made no reference to IS, said that the coalition had “a duty to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organizations whatever their sect and name which wreak death and corruption on earth and aim to terrorise the innocent”.
Pakistan has been a longterm ally of Saudi Arabia, but has declined to participate in a number of recent conflicts spearheaded by the kingdom.
The country declined to participate in the Saudi-led coalition’s war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels in April, after much debate in the Pakistani parliament.
Later, in response to US requests for Pakistan’s aid in combatting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan reiterated its opposition to involvement in conflicts in the Middle East.
“We are not looking for any involvement outside our region,” said army spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa in November.
The two countries have long supported one another militarily and they are believed to have an agreement established to allow the Kingdom access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program.
Some analysts have speculated that Pakistan is hesitant about joining conflicts in the Middle East that have taken on a distinctively sectarian character.
Pakistan has a large Shia minority who are often targeted by militant groups and action abroad could risk inflaming the domestic situation further.