Islamabad - Following heightening tension between Iran and United States over assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor on Sunday said Pakistan will not take sides in the ongoing US-Iran conflict.

“Pakistan will not be a party to anyone or anything but will be a partner of peace and peace alone,” ISPR Director General told private news channels emphasising that Pakistan would not allow its soil to be used against any other country.

The DG ISPR maintained that Pakistan desires regional peace but at the same time it would not compromise on its national security.

He said the regional scenario has changed after the killing of General Soleimani and Pakistan’s Foreign Office had already given its statement over the incident. “In this scenario, Prime Minister (Imran Khan) and the Army Chief (General Qamar Javed Bajwa) has adopted a very clear stance that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against anyone and play its strong role for regional peace,” he clarified.

Asif Ghafoor rubbished claims made by Indian media that Pakistan’s policy towards Iran has changed in the wake of resumption of US military training programme for Pakistan Army as mere propaganda and fake news.

He said the US decision to restore military training programme for Pakistan had nothing to do with ongoing tensions in the Middle East.

He said Islamabad and Washington had been in talks for the last four or five months over the issue and linking it as Pakistan aligning with the United States is Indian propaganda.

The DG ISPR further explained that Pakistan and the US had been discussing this issue for months and linking it with the current regional tensions was nothing but a propaganda being advanced by India. He advised media and public to pay attention only to the statements coming from an authentic source.

He said Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in his telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the region is making progress towards peace from a very bad situation and the Baghdad incident would be detrimental to the peace efforts.

He said the Army Chief had emphasised on reducing regional tensions in his conversation with Mike Pompeo after the attack. Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa stressed that tensions between Tehran and Washington should de-escalate as the region could not bear the brunt of another war, he added.

Discussing the phone call between the Army Chief and the US Secretary of State, Asif Ghafoor said General Qamar Javed Bajwa had said two things:

Firstly, he said that the region was improving from very bad conditions, adding the Afghan reconciliation process is very important for this improvement. He added Pakistan would play its role in this and wants the focus to remain on the issue.

Secondly, the Army Chief had told Pompeo that tensions in the region should be reduced. He said all relevant countries should move forward with constructive practices and dialogue.

“Pakistan will support all peaceful efforts and hopes the region doesn’t go towards another war,” he quoted the Army Chief as saying.

“The Army Chief had also told him (Pompeo) to avoid such steps which could interrupt the Afghanistan reconciliation process. COAS has an important role in bringing improvements to the regional situation and Pakistan achieved peace after rendering many sacrifices. We will not be part of any effort to ruin this peace,” he said.

“Pakistan stands for peace and is making all-out efforts for regional peace,” he said, adding Islamabad played a significant role in the Afghan peace process but the regional situation had changed due to General Soleimani’s assassination.

He said Pakistan has an important role to play with regard to regional security and Afghan peace process, and it does not want to see another conflict in this region, adding Pakistan has established peace after huge sacrifices in fighting major war against terrorism and it cannot afford at all that this was reversed.

Analysts while commenting on the statement by DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor termed it significant.

Lt General (retd) Amjad Shoaib said the US might be seeking Pakistan’s help against Iran as it did against Afghan Taliban after 9/11 attacks.

However, he made it clear that there was difference between extending support to US against Afghan invasion than joining hands with Washington against Iran.

Gen Shoaib said there was no question of Pakistan allowing US to use its airspace or airbases against Iran. “No one in Pakistan will accept such a decision,” he maintained.

He further said the US in any case did not need Pakistan’s help since it had military bases in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and even it had deployed an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea.

‘INDIAN ARMY CHIEF SHOULD END IHK LOCKDOWN’

Speaking about the new Indian army chief’s threatening statements against Pakistan, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane had been newly installed as the army chief and is “busy trying to make a place for himself” but is not new to the institution itself. “He knows fully well the situation in the region and the capability of the Pakistan Army. He was part of the Indian force on Feb 27 as well. So he’s not new.”

Maj Gen Ghafoor expressed hope that Gen Naravane “will no longer let go of reason”. “The Pakistan Army knows how to defend the country and India also knows this,” he said.

“The Indian army chief should, instead of giving such statements, end the clampdown in occupied Kashmir, end oppression there, and play his role in ending the ongoing tyranny in India due to the Hindutva thought,” said Maj Gen Ghafoor.

The DG ISPR said that the path India is on “will lead to its own destruction”.