34-country coalition not against any country: Asif

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Tuesday said 34-country coalition was not against any country and attaching terrorism with Muslim Ummah was a wrong step.

“We will stand by Saudi Arabia if it faced any threat. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s talks with Saudi leaderships were very encouraging and there was a good response from Saudi Arabia,” he said while speaking in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

He said the prime minister was holding talks with the Iranian leadership today under the same spirit and hoped that the prime minister’s visit would be successful.

He said the aim of the visit was to defuse tensions between the two Muslim countries. It was also aimed to remove irritants emerged in the unity of Muslim Ummah.

He pointed out that Pakistan was playing a mediation role which is also a desire of the parliament.

Referring to 34-member coalition of Islamic countries, the Minister said it is still evolving and its scope and participation is being discussed.

Khawaja Asif said the alliance has no military objectives and aimed at to prepare a joint counter-terrorism narrative.

The defence minister said the United States was committed to provide eight F-16s to Pakistan.

He said US was providing Pakistan F-16s for carrying out anti-terrorism activities viewing its success in airstrikes on sanctuaries of terrorists during operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Khawaja Asif said Pakistan was cooperating with Saudi Arabia in defence field under agreements signed between the two countries from time to time. He said Pakistan will respond effectively in case of any danger to the integrity and security of Saudi Arabia.

Speaking on points of order, members appreciated the mediation efforts to defuse tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Replying to points raised by different members, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said 34-member group is not an alliance but a coalition and it is still evolving.

He said it is voluntary for member countries to decide about its joining in different activities of the coalition.

The adviser said Pakistan is included in all initiatives of counter-terrorism and has experienced in this regard which it wanted to share with other countries.

He said the Iran’s reaction was very positive to the prime minister’s visit.

Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan’s foreign policy is balanced and based on non-interference in internal affairs of others.