The government’s blushes at being included in ‘coalition’ against terrorism without it’s knowledge by Saudi Arabia deepened when Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz was grilled on the floor of the senate on the government’s decision. He admitted on Monday to the Senate that Pakistan was still unaware of the full details of the Saudi-led coalition against terrorism and cautioned parliament against “complicating” the process by “prematurely” discussing it. The irony that the government assented to the coalition – a much more weighty and permanent action than discussion – before knowing the full details is lost on the minister.

To be fair to Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan is not the only country blindsided by Saudi Arabia, both Indonesia and Malaysia had to give diplomatic statements giving support to the collation’s objectives but heavily reserving their actions; Malaysia ruled out military intervention completely while Indonesia claimed it is waiting for further information on “the modalities of the operation”. Furthermore the minister revealed that Saudi Arabia had been given a secret commitment regarding joining the alliance, about which the Foreign Office was not aware. Who gave this commitment? It was given in exchange of what? And why was the parliament kept in the dark? The senate was correct in pointing out that any action which requires the commitment of Pakistani forces abroad requires national assent, and hence a ‘secret commitment’ is highly improper.

Sartaj Aziz contends that the coalition aims to combat Islamic Sate (IS), something that is also Pakistan’s objective, and hence Pakistan’s cooperation, regardless of confusion over the details should not be derided. But that statement is highly suspect; the coalition aims to combat terrorism across the Muslim world, with no concrete definition of terrorism or terror groups. Which groups will be prioritized? Who decided which groups? Lebanon as part of the coalition, does that mean Hezbollah is off the table? There are a huge range of countries involved that have very different definitions of what constitutes a terrorist group. Saudi Arabia classifies the Houthi rebels as terrorists, even if Pakistan eventually provides only material and intelligence support it may essentially help the Kingdom fight the war in Yemen – a roundabout way of doing something the parliament has expressly forbidden.

Secondly, the true aim seems to be countering the influence of the Iran, Syria, Russia axis, despite how Saudi Arabia dresses the coalition, and that is a conflict that Pakistan needs to stay out off.