ISLAMABAD - The Foreign Office yesterday admitted in the Senate that it knew ‘a little bit’ about Saudi-led 34-nation coalition of Muslim countries to fight extremism and terrorism till Saudi Arabia formally made an announcement about it.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz gave these remarks when he had to face tough questions from Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani over its statement that Pakistan was part of 34 nations Islamic military coalition but it had yet to decide the nature and extent of its participation in it.

“You entered into a military alliance and you are still foggy, you don’t know what extent of participation you will have in it,” the chairman remarked over the statement of Adviser to PM who was concluding a debate in the house regarding success and failure of government’s foreign policy.

The government’s announcement of last Wednesday that it was part of 34-nation coalition of Muslim countries but at the same time its reluctance to disclose whether it would be part of the combat activities of the coalition or not has surprised not only the lawmakers but also the civil society and political circles of the country.

Mian Raza Rabbani remarked: “You have decided to become part of the alliance without taking the house into any confidence.” He questioned why four countries decided to keep out of this coalition.

In response to questions from senators, Aziz said: “Don’t prejudge the results of the initiative as there are number of activities in it that will be discussed in the next OIC Summit going to be held in February this year.”

The adviser said that every country still had to decide about the nature and extent of activities it wanted to undertake while joining the coalition. “There will be intelligence sharing and strategy would be formed to make counter narrative on Islam and we have some ideas to discuss,” he said, adding that the government supported any action against terrorism. He also said that they had to block the entrance of self-styled Daesh in South Asia.

While narrating his government’s bilateral relations with other countries, Sartaj Aziz said that the Heart of Asia Conference has revived the dialogue process with Afghanistan. To a question about recovery of dead bodies of Pakistanis in Afghanistan, he said that he would have to investigate the matter. “But I totally object that Kunduz attack of Taliban was Pakistan backed,” he said.

“Our relations with India are tough but our strong statement in UNSC has pressurised it to come back and start a comprehensive dialogue,” he said. He admitted that the ground realities in Pakistan were changing due to government’s successful foreign policy as there was economic stability in the country due to this and “Pakistan was now a good destination of investment because of its counter terrorism efforts”.

Aziz stated that the country’ foreign policy focused on five major points, including non-interference into other country’s affairs, a peaceful neighbourhood, focus on trade and investment and not aid, focus on connectivity and cooperation with the international community on extremism and terrorism.

Earlier, Senator Farhatullah Babar taking part in the debate had questioned the government that foreign secretary at first showed his surprise for becoming part of the coalition. He asked what precisely the government was contributing in this coalition and whether Pakistan would be part of the combat mission or not.

Separately, Sartaj Aziz concluding another debate over harassment by overseas Pakistanis due to acts of terrorism like San Bernardino attacks said that the government had written to feign missions aboard in this connection. However, he said that the issue was not Pakistan specific but Muslims all over the world facing this problem. The role of media is very significant, he said.

On another issue, the lawmakers criticised the government for not convening meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) since March this year, saying that it was clear violation of the constitution. They also condemned the statement of PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain that 18th Amendment was the root cause of all evils. PPP Senator Saeed Ghani said that PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills could not be privatised without endorsement of CCI and its meeting should be summoned to discuss these two issues.

Senate Chairman said that he would give his ruling soon on the issue as the government was constitutionally bound to summon meeting of CCI within 90 days. His remarks came when Inter-provincial Coordination Minister Riaz Hussain Pirzada said that the government was not summoning the meeting despite the fact that it had moved a summary for three times.

“I know it. Let me be the bad boy between you and the government,” Rabbani said. Pirzada said that CCI secretariat was also being established in Islamabad before the house passed a unanimous resolution asking the establishment of CCI secretariat.