‘Pakistan not to be part of any conflict in region’

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday informed the National Assembly and the Senate that Pakistan would not become part of any regional conflict in the wake of killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in a US drone attack in Iraq.

Giving a policy statement in both the Houses of Parliament, Qureshi said Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against any neighbouring country.

“We will not be part of any conflict but are ready to make every effort for peace in the region,” Qureshi said in the National Assembly. Qureshi informed the House that it was an assessment of the Foreign Office that the situation would create more instability in the Middle East and would also lead to high-profile assassinations in the region.

The minister observed that the killing of Iranian commander would have far-reaching effects in the region and beyond and could also jeopardise Afghanistan’s peace process.

About Pakistan’s role in the present situation, the foreign minister said Pakistan wanted a respectable and dignified way out while keeping in view its national interests. “Instability is not in our interests; we are against the use of force and believe in diplomatic engagement and de-escalation,” he said, adding that all the issues should be resolved as per international laws. He said Pakistan had also asked the United States to play its role in de-escalation adding that the situation was still fluid and it could not be said as to what would happen tomorrow.

“Senior officials are consistently monitoring the situation,” he said, adding that Pakistan would give priority to its interests.

He also told the House that soon after attack on Qasem Soleimani, he had talked to the leaders of Muslim countries.

Qureshi said he also called up his Iranian counterpart and conveyed his concern and emotions of the people of Pakistan to him. He said Pakistan had also approached the United Nations calling upon the forum to play its due role in de-escalating tension arising out of January 3 action.

Qureshi said neither the government compromised the country’s sovereignty nor would it do so in future.

Earlier, PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif said Pakistan should take a bold stand in the current situation and should not be blackmailed by any other country. Observing that the killing of Iranian General was a big tragedy, he asked as to why the government was afraid of calling Qasem Soleimani a ‘Shaheed’.

He pointed out that the situation emerging out of US attack was also an alarming bell for Pakistan and the government may also not remain safe from the flames of the fire. He also advised the government not to lose friends at expense of relations with other countries and emphasised that Pakistan’s foreign policy should be based on relations with regional countries.

Asif said the opposition parties had no objection to Pakistan’s relations with the United States but there should be a balance in relations without compromising on national interests and sovereignty. He also said the CPEC future was also uncertain since the PTI came into power.

Former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf along with party colleagues and PML-N parliamentarians walked out of the House as the foreign minister left the House without hearing his speech.

The foreign minister, however, said he had to call the international leadership on the situation and that’s why he was leaving.

Meanwhile, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in the Senate that Pakistan could play a role in reconciliation, peace and stability, but would not augment fire of war in the region, having repercussions even beyond the region. “Pakistan does not support any unilateral action, as use of force cannot offer any solution to an issue,” he contended.

He said that the situation in the Middle East was extremely fluid, sensitive and dangerous and noted that the region had been a victim of instability for long since the issues, which needed to be resolved, remained pending and this added to the situation. The minister urged Iran to exercise its traditional wisdom in the given critical situation. However, he noted the Iranian supreme leader had talked of revenge.

Referring to the US strike, he said Iraqi prime minister called it a violation of the agreement between his country and the United States and immediately after the incident, the Iraqi parliament through a resolution called on all the foreign forces to leave Iraq immediately.

Expressing concerns, Qureshi said this might lead the region to further instability, especially chances of destabilisation of Iraq and Syria had increased. He pointed out that Iran was Pakistan’s neighbour and it good relations while then there were countries were over 4 million Pakistanis were staying for livelihood and their safety was of paramount importance.

The new conflict, he noted, might also negatively impact peace process in Afghanistan as well as could prompt Houthi rebels in Yemen to intensify their attacks on Saudi Arabia while Hezbollah could target Israel with rocket attacks.

He said that the United Nations, the Security Council and the world community could play a role for averting further escalations and saving the region from a major conflict.

Qureshi contended that Pakistan worked on its own set of principles and was fully aware of the fact that the Middle East region just could not afford a new war. “If there is a fire raging then even we cannot escape its far-reaching effects,” he said, and added while in phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, he had called for restraint.

He told the House that according to regional experts, the repercussions of the strike that killed Soleimani, could be more severe than the 2011 raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the 2019 killing of militant Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He said Iraq had decided to send its foreign minister to the United Nations to record protest because in their view the strike violated international law and UN Charter.

Senator Mushahidullah said Suleimani was a symbol of resistance and enjoyed respect and he questioned the US logic behind resorting to such action and said better sense should have prevailed.

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