Riyadh starts lobbying for 34-nation alliance

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has decided to take opposition parties of allied countries into confidence over the grand alliance it has formed to fight terrorism.

Saudi authorities invited former president Asif Ali Zardari on a special request to Jeddah, and he arrived there with Senator Rehman Malik and family members. The PPP co-chairman will hold important meetings with Saudi officials following which he will perform Umrah. Saudi officials are working to take allied countries onboard to fight against the terror threats facing the Muslim countries. Pakistan on Thursday confirmed joining Saudi Arabia’s 34-nation coalition against terrorism, however it said the extent of participation in counter-terrorism activities was yet to be decided.

“Yes, we are part of it [coalition]. We have decided, and we welcome it,” the Foreign Office spokesman said in response to a question whether Pakistan was part of the alliance announced by Saudi Arabia against terrorism. In a weekly media briefing at Foreign Office, spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said, “We are participating in this alliance against terrorism. The only thing that needs to be decided is the extent of our participation in various activities of the alliance.” He said Pakistan consistently supported all regional and international efforts to combat militancy, extremism and terrorism and added that Pakistan in this context had welcomed the formation of Saudi alliance.

He said the focus of the alliance was on countering terrorism, and for this reason, Pakistan was supporting it. The FO spokesperson categorically dismissed a news item published in an English daily on Wednesday which quoted the foreign secretary as saying that Pakistan was surprised over its inclusion in the 34-nation alliance announced by Saudi Arabia. “We reject the remarks attributed to the foreign secretary as incorrect and misleading,” he said, adding that the correspondent had misquoted the foreign secretary. He clarified that in response to questions during informal interaction with journalists on December 15, the foreign secretary had said that Pakistan was ascertaining the details announced by Saudi Arabia concerning the alliance against terrorism.

The spokesman said later in the day, Foreign Office had issued a formal response that also mentioned Pakistan welcoming the alliance. “We respect views and analysis of all correspondents, however we expect that they will not be mixed with facts to mislead the readers particularly about Pakistan’s relations with important countries,” he said. In a bid to woo opposition parties for the grand alliance, Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Abdullah Marzouk Al Zahrani met Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at Zardari House, Islamabad and discussed in detail many issues, including the coalition.


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