ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, in a policy statement given in the Senate on Monday, said that Pakistan would not be part of any regional conflict in the wake of escalation of tensions between the US and Iran.

“We are clear in our stance that our soil will not be used against any other state,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi while speaking in Senate on the situation resulting from the killing of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in a US airstrike.

“Pakistan could be a party to any peace initiative, but not a regional conflict,” Qureshi reminded.

Calling upon Iran to exercise its ‘traditional wisdom’ and refrain from whipping up war hysteria, the foreign minister said the region couldn’t afford a new war.

He said that Pakistan had a clear stance that it would not support any unilateral action and called upon all sides to show restraint.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan understands that if any action that disrupts peace in the region is taken, it would not be in the interest of Pakistan and the region,” he said, and added, “The situation is evolving, and Pakistan is monitoring every minute of it.”

Pakistan could be a party to any peace initiative, but not a regional conflict, says FM

“I have constituted a task force in the Foreign Office which is keeping an eye on the situation, and intimating the government accordingly,” Qureshi informed.

The foreign minister asked the international community and the United Nations to play their role in de-escalation.

He contended the position Pakistan had taken in the aftermath of the assassination of Iranian commander was a very responsible one because on one side was Iran—its neighbouring country—and on the other side, there were countries where four million overseas Pakistanis were employed.

He said that it was believed that the repercussions of the US action that killed Soleimani could be more severe than those of 2011 US Navy Seals operation in Abbottabad that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the 2019 killing of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Describing the Gulf situation as fragile and critical, the foreign minister said that escalation could take any shape. He said that Pakistan had concerns due to many reasons, and one of them was that any conflict could divert Pakistan’s focus from its economic development agenda.

Enumerating other reasons, the minister said that escalation in tensions would further destabilize the region, especially the situation in Iraq and Syria. “The crisis will have a negative impact on the Afghanistan peace process and Pakistan’s efforts to this effect. The Houthis in Yemen may increase number of their attacks on Saudi Arabia which is our friend. Hezbollah, which has conducted rocket attacks in the past, could strike Israel. The situation could lead to high-profile assassinations of US personnel in the region,” Qureshi argued.

The foreign minister said any conflict between Iran and the US could lead to the blockade of oil supply routes, which would have a direct impact on regional and global economies.

Qureshi reminded that Iran had virtually pulled itself out of the nuclear deal that had put restrictions on its Uranium enrichment. “The crisis may lead to terrorism rearing its head in Pakistan again,” he expressed the apprehension.

The foreign minister went on to say there were fears; crisis in Gulf could lead to further divisions in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). “The situation has also undermined Pakistan’s efforts to raise the issue of human rights violations in Indian occupied Kashmir from the platform of OIC,” he regretted.

He expressed the fear that India, facing protests in its different states over a controversial citizenship law, could use the occasion to carry out a false-flag operation. “Pakistan is keeping all such assessments in mind,” he said, adding that the government decided to contact the important foreign ministers of the region on the crisis facing the region. He underscored that the US claimed that its action was “preventive” in nature and now it was ready to negotiate to deescalate the situation.

“But at the same time they have warned that if Iran retaliates, our response will be even stronger than before.” Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq in his remarks said that Pakistan should play an active role to resolve the crisis by contacting those countries which could prove effective in this connection. He said that foreign minister’s speech did not show light of hope rather Pakistan was in a position to “play a big role.”