The fallout from USA’s unilateral action to kill top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani will have an effect on Pakistan. It is for this reason Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached out to Army Chief General Bajwa soon after the incident taking him into confidence over the killing.
It can be questioned why Pompeo called on the army chief rather than his counterpart. There were certainly scant details over the conversation but Pompeo appeared unapologetic saying that Iran’s action are destabilising the region, and the US will not waver from protecting its interests.
Soon afterwards, the US announced to restore the military training program with Pakistan. While security aid, delivery of military equipment and security funds still remain suspended since 2018. The US had approved technical support for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet when Imran Khan visited Washington in June last year. The move is rather insignificant if it was intended to reassure Pakistan against the fallout; the US needs to provide more assistance.
The military’s press wing issued a brief statement that the army chief emphasised on “maximum restraint and constructive engagement” to de-escalate the situation. Pakistan once again has to make the tough decision on taking sides during the Middle East conflict. The ideal situation would be to show neutrality and make efforts for peace in the region. It is much easier staying away from a conference but an all-out war will have far greater repercussions.
DG ISPR Major-General Ghafoor has stated that regional situation has been altered after Soleimani’s killing and Pakistan would play its role in helping peace prevails. He said Pakistan will certainly not allow its soil to be used against anyone again. How exactly will Pakistan ensure peace while also maintaining relations with Saudi Arabia needs to be seen.
The situation in the region is worsening rapidly. There will be preemptive action once Soleimani has been buried. A red flag has been raised at the holy site of Ahvaz near Qom signifying a declaration of war. Trump has threatened to strike 52 sites in Iran including revered cultural places in case American interests in the region were targeted. All this points out that tension will escalate further.
There is a need for all relevant countries to move forward with constructive practices and dialogue. Pakistan should certainly not take sides in a conflict that affects a Muslim neighboring country. The government should take the opportunity to make efforts for regional security. The US also needs to be assured that unilateral action will cause more harm and no good.