ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has told Iran the Saudi-led military alliance was not sectarian and Islamabad will not become part of any anti-Tehran agenda, sources said.

Officials in the foreign ministry told The Nation on Tuesday that since Pakistan valued its ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, it could not annoy any one of them.

“We have been in contact with Iran in the recent days and have tried to clarify Pakistan’s position. We have told them, Islamabad was part of any anti-terrorism alliance not an anti-Iran alliance,” said an official, citing contacts with the Iranian counterparts.

Earlier, the government allowed former army chief Raheel Sharif to command a Saudi Arabia-led military alliance of 39 Muslim states.

Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif said that the Saudi government had formally requested Pakistan seeking General Sharif’s services.

“Raheel Sharif has been allowed to join the military alliance,” he said.

Asif said that the government was ready to clear its position on the issue in the parliament if any lawmaker raised it.

The alliance was formed by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 with its headquarters in Riyadh.

Iran had objected to the formation of the alliance fearing it was a Sunni-alliance rather than a Muslim alliance.

The government had also delayed approval to Raheel Sharif – considering Iran’s objections —- for several months before finally giving a nod to the former army chief.

Another foreign ministry official said that Pakistan had assured Iran it would not let the alliance become sectarian in nature.

“Iran says it will wait and see how the alliance goes but they have their fears. Pakistan values its ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he added.

This week, National Security Adviser Nasir Janjua said that Islamic military alliance – led by former army chief Raheel Sharif – would bring unity to the Muslim world.

Januja stressed that with his experience Gen Sharif would remove internal misunderstandings among Muslim countries. “Iran and other countries opposed to the alliance will also benefit from this,” he said.

Defence analyst Major General Farooq Malik (retd) said that the Saudi government trusted Pakistan so it sought Raheel Sharif’s services.

He said that the alliance was formed against terrorism and Pakistan could not support any anti-Iran block as it had friendly relations with the Muslim country.

Dr Shaheen Akhtar from the National Defence University (NDU) Pakistan had always tried to remove differences among the Gulf countries.

“We have good ties with all the Muslim countries, which is of advantage. We can use this influence to unite Muslims,” she said.

Former ambassador Shahid Amin said that Pakistan had special relations with all the Muslim-majority countries in the Gulf and the Middle East.

“We cannot obviously annoy a friend for another friend. We should all work together,” he said.

Amin said that Pakistan had traditional ties with Iran and regular contacts between the two countries would not allow the anti-Pakistan elements to create differences between the neighbours.