Pakistan–Syria relations

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Pakistan-Syria relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and Syria



Pakistan–Syria relations are the historic, international, and bilateral relations between Syria and Pakistan. Through the ancient civilization exchange, areas of modern Pakistan were part of the silk route with the Syria and for centuries, Syrian Islamic missionaries that introduced Islam in the parts of now integrated in Pakistan after 711 AD were from Syria.

Along with Russia and Iran, Pakistan has raised its voice for the support for President Bashar al-Assad,[1] and greatly exhorted for peaceful solution of Syrian crises as well as opposing any military actions against Syria,[2][3] but recently has reduced their supports for Bashar al-Assad in favor for Turkish military intervention against al-Assad's regime, as Pakistan and Turkey are close allies as well, while Turkey has traditionally hostile to Assad's Government.

Foreign relations[edit]

1960s–70s: Political relations[edit]

The foreign relations began to grow during the 1960s when Pakistan Armed Forces contingent were dispatched to Syria, specifically the fighter pilots to fly Syrian Air Force's Mig fighter jets.

In the 1970s, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad came to Pakistan to participate in the international Organization of Islamic Conference, being the first Syrian President to have visited Pakistan.[4] President Hafez al-Assad was believed to be a close ally of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[4] In a view of former statesman, Khurshid Kasuri, Pakistan's silence is a product of "historical links between the Bhutto and al-Assad families."[4] After the death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad ultimately awarded asylum to Benazir, Murtaza and Shahnavaz Bhutto in 1979 to support for their leftist campaign against President General Zia-ul-Haq.[4]

Pakistan and the Yom Kippur War[edit]

In the events leading to the Yom Kippur War against Israel in 1973 which is usually referred to as the Ramadan War in Pakistan, a strong Pakistan military contingent was dispatched by Prime Minister Zulfiakr Bhutto to Syrian Armed Forces to help and to provide necessary military combat training, requested by Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.[5] From 1973–77, the Pakistan military advisers trained the Syrian Army personnel in various military tactics while maintaining a strong combat division to provide protection of Damascus from any possible Israeli Army attacks during the course of the war.[5] The Pakistan Navy also played an active role in providing the naval hardware to Syrian navy while the PAF dispatched a sizable unit of its fighter pilots to fly the Syrian Air Force fighter jets, operating from Inchass field of Egyptian Air Force.[6] The PAF wing led by Wing Commander Masood Hatif, the PAF and navy fighter pilots flew several of Syrian Air Forces' MiG 21 fighter jets and reportedly made aggressive patrols over Syrian-Israeli border.[5]

In 1974, during the height of the conflict, one of the PAF's notable fighter pilot Flight-Lieutenant Sattar Alvi who flew Syrian Air Force's MiG-21, shot down IAF's Mirage-IIIC fighter jet which was piloted by Captain M. Lutz.[7] In other aerial engagement in following weeks in 1974, the PAF fighter pilot, Squadron-Leader Arif Manzoor, leading a MiG-21 wing, forced two Israeli Mirages-IIIs into a close combat, and shooting down both Mirage IIIs with the K-13 missiles.[8] After the war, Flight Lieutenant Alvi and Squadron Leader Arif Manzoor were awarded two of Syria's highest decorations for gallantry awards in 1973 by President Hafez al-Assad in a public ceremony.[8]

1970s–80s: Cooling and normalizing of relations[edit]

After the removal of Bhutto, Pakistan's relations with Syria had nose-dived after President Zia-ul-Haq assumed the control of the country in 1978.[9] In 1981, the relations deteriorated when the PIA commercial flight, Boeing 720, was hijacked by the operatives of al-Zulfikar in Damascus. The Pakistan government had long assessed that the al-Zulfikar had the enjoyed the support from the President Hafez al-Assad.[9]

Tensions increased when the Syria treated the hijackers as state guests, and the Foreign ministry delegation led by Major-General Rahim Khan was ill-treated.[9] The relations tensed until the next five years when the Foreign ministry successful negotiations normalized relations with Syria.[9] In 1987, President Zia-ul-Haq made a surprise state visit to Damascus and had a one-to-one meeting with President Hafez al-Assad to lead the discussion to normalize the relations.[9] Concerning about the political instability in Pakistan and suppression of left-wing alliance led by Benazir Bhutto, President al-Assad declared in audience: "Had Pakistan adopted Arabic, the language of the Quran, as the national language, the lingual rifts and political divisions and anarchy would not have occurred. Pakistan would have remained a united country."[9]

After President Zia-ul-Haq's death and Benazir Bhutto becoming the Prime minister, the relations were warmed once again as Prime minister Benazir Bhutto promoted strong left-wing ideas and relations with Moscow.[9]

1980s–2000s: Commerce, trade and education[edit]

In the 1990s, Syria successfully sought help from Pakistan to established its own tractor factory in the country. Since the 1990s, Pakistan helped upgrade Syria's sugar, cement, fertilizer, and paper industry as well as cooperation has been increased in agriculture process.[10]

Under a Pakistan Technical Assistance Programme (PTAP), Pakistan awards semester scholarships to Syrian students to study agriculture science at the University of Faisalabad; Pakistan also invested in establishing the institutes for computer science and informatics in Damascus in late 1990s.[10] Since Benazir Bhutto and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) coming to power in 1993, the relations were warmed when Syria supported Pakistan's case for Kashmir and refers to the illegal Indian occupation of Eastern Kashmir as "an open aggression." However Syrian recognition that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. After a long negotiations, Pakistan and Syria have agreed for mutual cooperation and exchange of experts in the field of science and technology which led to the establishment of Pak-Syria Joint Committee on Science and Technology in 2005.[11]

Moral and diplomatic support of Pakistan continued for Syria's position on Golan Heights in the UN after the Arab-Israeli war. On annual basis, Pakistan exports a large cache of wheat and cotton to Syria on minimum prices in return of Syria providing crude oil to Pakistan at a lesser rates.

2010–present: Syrian civil war[edit]

In 2010, President Asif Zardari paid a state visit to Syria to meet with President Bashar al-Assad to expedite exchange of delegations in both government and private levels in political and economic sectors, eventually signing a trade treaty in 2010.[12]

Ultimately after the start of the Syrian civil war, Pakistan adopted a policy of neutrality and pushed its non-belligerent role during the conflict.[13] Official stand of Pakistan keenly oppose the strong use of military strikes against Syria.[14] At the meeting of the UNSC, Pakistan abstained from vote on an anti-Syria resolution in the UN General Assembly. Conference held by Iran, Pakistan urged the international community to respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.[1]

Pakistan has strongly urged the United States and western powers to avoid use of military force in Syria. In a statement, the Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Chaudhry maintained that Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. Pakistan has greatly expressed deep concerns over the ongoing violence and threat of possible American military action looming large over already embattled Syria.[15] The Pakistan Foreign ministry also strongly condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons of Syrian government, "All the engaged parties should adopt course of dialogue instead of violence and peaceful resolution of the conflict should be sought out", the Foreign Office quoted.[16] The National Security Adviser, Sartaj Aziz, has quoted at the United Nations that: "Pakistan condemns the use of chemical weapons, but it does not support aerial strikes which the U.S. proposes as it will only make the situation "more concerning".[3] Aziz strongly exhorted to the U.S and UK, "We should wait for the UN mission’s report on Syria."[17]

By December 2015, Pakistan foreign affairs stated that it is against any attempt to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.[18]

However, in 2018, Pakistani students in the University of Lahore had prayed to support Turkish military operation in Afrin, which Turkey, an anti-Assad country and ally of Pakistan, is engaging against the Kurds and Syrian Armed Forces.[19]


  1. ^ a b Baqir Sajjad Syed (2012-08-09). "Pakistan backs Syrian govt, opposes foreign intervention". Dawn News archives, area studies. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  2. ^ Subohi, Afshan (1 September 2013). "Syrian crisis: fallout on Pakistan". Dawn News (area studies) views. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Kamran Yousaf (August 30, 2013). "FO briefing: Pakistan opposes military action in Syria". Express Tribune. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Imtiaz, Saba (August 9, 2011). "Rights violations: Pakistan maintains discreet silence over Syria protest". Express Tribune. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Chengappa, Bidanda M. (2004). Pakistan, Islamisation, armed forces, and foreign policy. New Delhi: A.P.H. Publ. ISBN 8176485489. 
  6. ^ "PAF during Yom Kippur War - Egypt". PAF. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "PAF Pilot downs an Israeli Mirage - 26th April, 1974". Govt. Pakistan. PAF Museum sources. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Global Sec. Pike (2000). "Pakistan Air Force Combat Experience". Global Security Inc. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Khan, Ayaz Ahmad (28 July 2012). "Syria-Pakistan relations". Dawn News Area studies, 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Zehra, Nasim. "Revitalizing Pakistan-Syria Policy". August 2000. Pakistan Defence Journal. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Staff (1 August 2005). "Pakistan, Syria agree for science and technology cooperation". Behrain News Agency. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Staff (10 January 2010). "Pakistan, Syria agree to boost ties". The Nation. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  13. ^ Web Edition (1 September 2013). "Pakistan wants peaceful solutions ti Syria Crises". The News International. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  14. ^ sTAFF (31 August 2013). "Pakistan opposes use of force in Syria". Zee News. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  15. ^ APP, agencies, et. al (2 September 2013). "Pakistan strongly urged Americans to restraint over Syria". The Nation, Pakistan. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ APP (August 30, 2013). "Breakthrough expected on drone issue, says Sartaj Aziz". Express Tribune. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
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  19. ^