Middle East ties not at US expense: Pakistan Foreign Office

Dr. Mohammad Faisal
Updated 30 December 2018
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Middle East ties not at US expense: Pakistan Foreign Office

  • Saudi Arabia agreed to give Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad’s ties with Middle Eastern states are “not at the cost of our bilateral relationship with any other country,” including the US, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman told Arab News on Saturday.
“Pakistan is actively engaged with the US, and as a result Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Islamabad and the US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has visited Pakistan three times,” said Dr. Mohammad Faisal.
“The (Pakistani) government believes in productive and proactive diplomacy, and this is what we’ve done in the last four months.”
During its first four months in office, the government of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has focused on strengthening ties with Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Analysts say this is due to tensions between Pakistan and the US over the war in Afghanistan.
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE are time-tested and all-weather friends of Pakistan, and it’s quite natural for Pakistan to warm up its relationship with these countries at a time of ever-deteriorating diplomatic relations with the US,” said Tahir Malik, international affairs professor at NUML University in Islamabad.
It is imperative for Pakistan to forge close ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE “to stay relevant in the international community,” he added.
After being elected in August, Khan chose Saudi Arabia for his maiden foreign trip in September, where he held meetings with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Khan traveled to the UAE soon after.
Both trips bore dividends. Saudi Arabia agreed to give Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis. The UAE offered $3 billion in aid.
“I don’t think this clear appreciation of our close historic relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE was demonstrated by previous Pakistani governments,” Rasul Bukhsh Rais, a professor of political science, told Arab News.
Khan returned from those two countries with “incredible support at a very difficult hour in Pakistan’s history,” marked by a new transition to democracy, a deteriorating economy, a new party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) in power and a new prime minister, Rais said.
Pakistan needs to explore trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, lure investors by offering incentives, and explore opportunities to increase agricultural exports, he added.
Former Pakistani diplomat Javed Hafeez said Khan’s government has boosted relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Islamabad is committed to protecting Saudi sovereignty against any foreign aggression, Hafeez added.
According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, some 4 million Pakistanis live and work in the Middle East.


UK court rejects case brought by mother of Daesh 'Beatle' held in Syria

Updated 18 January 2019
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UK court rejects case brought by mother of Daesh 'Beatle' held in Syria

  • El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year
  • United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way

LONDON: The mother of one of the British Daesh militants suspected of murdering western hostages, lost a legal challenge on Friday that it was wrong for Britain to assist a US investigation which could lead to them facing the death penalty.
Britons El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey — two of a notorious group of British fighters nicknamed “The Beatles” — are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year.
The United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way of any future US prosecution that would seek the death penalty, waiving a long-standing objection to executions.
Elsheikh’s mother, Maha El Gizouli, had sought a judicial review, saying it was unlawful for Britain’s interior minister to provide mutual legal assistance in a case which could lead to prosecutions for offenses which carried the death penalty.
Her lawyers said the minister’s actions were flawed, inconsistent with Britain’s unequivocal opposition to the death penalty and violated her son’s human rights. However, London’s High Court disagreed and dismissed her claim.
“My priority has always been to ensure we deliver justice for the victims’ families and that the individuals suspected of these sickening crimes face prosecution as quickly as possible,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.
“Our long-standing opposition to the death penalty has not changed. Any evidence shared with the US in this case must be for the express purpose of progressing a federal prosecution.”
The most notorious of the four of the so-called Beatles was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” who is believed to have been killed in a US-British missile strike in 2015.
He became a public face of Daesh and appeared in videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages.
“This group of terrorists is associated with some of the most barbaric crimes committed during the conflict in Syria,” Graeme Biggar, Director of National Security at Britain’s interior ministry, said in a written statement to the court.
Britain has said it does not want the men repatriated to the United Kingdom and their British citizenship has been withdrawn.
British prosecutors concluded they did not have the evidence to launch their own case against the men but US officials then expressed frustration with the British stance of seeking an assurance that US prosecutors would not call for the death penalty, court documents showed.
However, last June, British ministers and senior officials decided the best way of ensuring a prosecution and to protect US relations was to seek no such assurance in this case.
That decision provoked criticism from opposition lawmakers and from some in the government’s own party who accused ministers of secretly abandoning Britain’s opposition to the death penalty.