Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used for any regional conflict: FM Qureshi
Islamabad, Jan 05: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday told his counterparts from several Muslim countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, that Islamabad will not allow its soil to be used for any regional conflict, amidst raging tensions between Tehran and Washington after the killing of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in an American drone strike in Iraq.
Soleimani, 62, the head of Iran's elite al-Quds force and architect of its regional security apparatus, was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday, sparking fears of a new war in the Middle East.
The Pakistan Foreign Office said that Qureshi held telephonic conversations with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE and Turkey to discuss the regional situation unfolding in the region.
"The Foreign Minister reaffirmed that Pakistan would neither let its soil be used against any other State nor become part of any regional conflict," the Foreign Office (FO) said.
Highlighting Pakistan's deep concern over the recent developments, Qureshi underscored the imperative of avoiding conflict, exercise of maximum restraint, and de-escalation of tensions.
He called on all parties concerned to abide by the UN Charter and principles of international law to settle differences through peaceful means. Sharing Pakistan's perspective, the foreign minister expressed hope that the progress made in the Afghan peace process would be preserved and advanced further.
He reiterated Pakistan's readiness to continue to play a role in preventing further escalation and maintaining regional peace and stability, the FO said. Hundreds of protesters, including women and children, rallied in Karachi and Islamabad to protest the killing of Soleimani.
The rallies organised by Shiite groups - including Imamia Students Organisation (ISO), Jaafria Alliance, Majlis-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), Tanzeem Azadari and Shia Ulema Council - chanted anti-American slogans.
The protestor, carrying portraits of Soleimani and chanting slogans like "Down with USA!", were stopped by police from moving toward the US consulate.
The protest rally in Islamabad started from the National Press Club and ended at the D-Chowk in front of Parliament. It was led by Shiite leader Allama Syed Ali Rizvi and women and children took part in the protest. Pakistan has the biggest Shiite population after Iran and may face turbulence in case of a war between the US and Iran.
The country, in the past, has tried to maintain a balance between Saudi Arabia and Iran which are regional rivals.
The US Embassy in Islamabad already on Friday issued a countrywide security alert, warning its employees and US citizens to restrict their movement.
"Given possible reactions to recent events in Iraq, the US Embassy has restricted travel by US government employees. US government personnel in Pakistan are required to postpone non-essential official movements and most personal movements.
US citizens in Pakistan should monitor their surroundings for possible demonstrations and suspicious activity," the embassy said in a statement.