ISLAMABAD (AP) — Any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will evoke a strong response from Islamabad, Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif said Sunday.
Sharif made the remarks in a statement after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman met with him in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, adjacent to the capital.
Salman earlier arrived in Islamabad, making him the second top Saudi official to visit Pakistan in a week amid growing tension with Iran over Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr’s recent execution.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Pakistan a couple of days ago.
The visits came after Saudi Arabia and several of its allies announced the severing or downgrading of diplomatic relations with Shiite powerhouse Iran. Protesters in Tehran stormed the Saudi embassy and a Saudi consulate elsewhere in the country after Saudi Arabia executed al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric and opposition leader earlier this month.
Pakistan, a predominantly Sunni state, also has a large Shiite population. Pakistan has had a history of sectarian violence where Sunni and Shiite militants have reportedly been funded and supported by Gulf states for their proxy wars.
The deputy crown prince later called on Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The people of Pakistan would always stand with the people of Saudi Arabia, said Sharif in a statement after the meeting. Pakistan has previously agreed to become part of a Saudi-led counter-terrorism alliance. Sharif welcomed the initiative and informed the prince about Pakistan’s support for efforts to oppose terrorism and extremism. It was agreed that the two countries would cooperate in developing an effective counter narrative to defeat the extremist mindset, said the statement. It said Pakistan also expressed its readiness to offer its offices to brotherly Muslim countries for resolution of their differences through peaceful dialogue and reconciliation.
Pakistan hold its defense ties with Saudi Arabia in highest esteem, said Sharif, the army chief. He said Pakistan attached great importance to the security of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.