In the aftermath of elevated tensions between the United States and Iran, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday said that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be utilised against any other nation and that it maintains friendly relations with all countries “except the one on the eastern side,” in a clear reference to India.
Pakistan shares a 997-kilometre (620-mile) border with Iran, and for decades has tried to balance ties with Tehran with a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia — while also representing Iran’s consular interests in the US. Around 10% of Pakistani population is also Shia that feels strongly for Iran and pilgrims from Pakistan keep on visiting holy sites in Iran and Iraq.
Tensions continued to mount across the Middle East on Monday with oil and gold bullion prices rising and international stock prices taking a plunge. The share prices of Saudi Oil giant, ARAMCO took a massive hit, and were at its lowest since its recent IPO in December. All this followed after a US drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qasim Soleimani along with Mahdi Mohandas, commander of “Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) on Friday. Both were getting out of Baghdad airport and were heading to meet Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Both Iran and Iraq have since then reacted strongly. Iranian leadership and military commander vow revenge. Its not clear what shape Iranian response can take. US President, Donald Trump has since then warned that any strike by Iranians against any US assets will lead to strong swift and unprecedented reaction from the United States. Trump has created an international outrage by saying that US can hit 52 targets in Iran – including its cultural and historic sites – that means it’s pilgrim sites and shrines.
It was in that regional atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that Pakistan’s foreign minster, was speaking in parliament. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had earlier spoken on Friday (immediately after the killing of Gen. Soleimani) with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Bajwa, creating public impressions that United States is expecting some help from Pakistan in this conflict with Iran.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to defuse tension between the rivals
“We will not become part of any efforts to light a fire, nor will we allow our soil to be used against any other state as part of our policy to prevent instability in the region,” foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told parliament.
“It will be disastrous if conflict breaks out. It will also engulf us,” he added, while offering to help mediate as it Pakistan has done in the past.
Pakistan is very clear on its position: we stand for peace, stability & security in region. I've reiterated this to all stakeholders in my recent conversations. Active diplomacy to de-escalate tensions is the need of the hour.Violence must be avoided. We'll continue with efforts.
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) January 6, 2020
Last year, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan travelled between Saudi Arabia and Iran in a bid to defuse tension between the rivals.
Qureshi lists dangerous outcomes of US-Iran conflict for Pakistan and the region.
Briefing the Pakistan Senate on the issue, FM Qureshi highlighted 11 major potential disastrous outcomes of a conflict between US and Iran – and how it can adversely affect Pakistan’s interests and security.
1. The episode will additionally destabilize the region, particularly the circumstances in Iraq and Syria.
2. The emergency could negatively affect the Afghanistan peace process and Pakistan’s endeavors in such manner could be undone.
3. The situation in Yemen could deteriorate and assaults by Houthis on Saudi Arabia could increase.
4. Hezbollah, which has in the past led rocket assaults, could feel free to strike Israel.
5. The tensions could prompt assassinations of prominent US officials in the region.
6. Route blockades could be established prompting breakage in oil supply, which will negatively affect the territorial and worldwide economy.
7. The Iran atomic arrangement has gone under serious weight with the most recent declarations from Iran proposing that Tehran has, for all intents and purposes, pulled out of the arrangement that put limitations on the nation’s Uranium enrichment.
8. The crisis could lead to the resurgence of terrorism in Pakistan.
9. The escalating tensions have raised the odds of further division of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
10. The situation has negatively affected the Pakistani government’s endeavors to unite the OIC on the issue of human rights infringement in India-occupied Kashmir.
11. India may jump on the opportunity to destabilize Pakistan and direct false flag activities/ operations.
Soleimani was one of Iran’s most popular public figures and was considered an instrumental figure in helping build and lead Shiite militias across the Middle East to expand Iranian influence.
The security forces of Sunni-majority Pakistan have kept a watchful eye on hardline Shiites who are believed to have travelled to the Middle East to receive training from Iranian militias, fearing the fighters could ignite sectarian bloodshed on their return.
Iran has also claimed militants have used Pakistan to launch attacks, with Tehran last year accusing a Pakistani suicide bomber of killing 27 members of its elite Revolutionary Guard, which Soleimani headed.
GVS News Desk with input from Agencies and other sources.