Pakistan not deploying its troops in Qatar: Foreign Office

Pakistan has refuted reports that it was deploying its troops in Qatar in the wake of the oil-rich country’s current standoff with other Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia.

A statement issued by the Pakistani Foreign Office on Sunday described the reports that appeared in some foreign media outlets about the deployment of Pakistan army in Qatar as “completely fabricated and baseless”.

“These false reports appear to be part of a malicious campaign aimed at creating misunderstanding between Pakistan and brotherly Muslim countries in the Gulf,” Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakria said.

Last week, Saudi Arabia along with several Gulf states severed diplomatic ties with Qatar after accusing it of supporting terrorist groups.

While Gulf countries vowed to isolate Qatar, Turkey decided to side with the oil rich state by deploying troops there. Some foreign media organisations reported that Pakistan would also follow Turkey’s suit and deploy around 20,000 troops in Qatar.

The brewing crisis in the Middle East has put Pakistan in an awkward situation as Islamabad enjoys close ties both with Riyadh and Doha.

Besides strong political ties, Pakistan has close economic cooperation with Gulf countries that are also home to millions of Pakistanis who significantly contribute to the country’s economy in the form of foreign remittances.

At the last weekly briefing, when asked to explain Pakistan’s stance on the current unrest in the Gulf nations, the foreign office spokesperson said Pakistan was increasingly concerned over the development.

“Pakistan believes in unity among Muslim countries. We have made consistent efforts for its promotion. The situation, therefore, is a matter of concern,” said Zakria while suggesting that the government would not take sides in a conflict that can have huge implications for the country.

Officials said that the government is making efforts to play some kind of a role to defuse the crises between Qatar and other neighbouring countries.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to undertake a visit to Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as part of Pakistan’s diplomatic manoeuvers to break the stalemate.

It is, however, not clear if Saudi Arabia is willing to reconcile and accept any mediation at this stage. The oil-rich kingdom has so far given a lukewarm response to efforts by Kuwait to mediate between Riyadh and Doha.

The evolving situation in the Mideast has added another dimension to already difficult situation Pakistan is facing when it comes to the Saudi-led counter-terrorism alliance.

Policymakers in Pakistan fear that if the situation worsens it would further compound the foreign policy challenges for the country.

“Therefore, we are concentrating on mediation,” commented a senior Foreign Office official while requesting anonymity.