Nawaz plays important role in getting a new job for Gen Raheel in Riyadh

By Kiran Bokhari

       (Pak Destiny) Sharif has played an important role in getting a new job for other Sharif in Riyadh.

       Former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, who retired recently retired from the military, has been selected to lead a ‘so-called’ 39 Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) created by ambitious young Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman.

       It is widely believed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has played an important role in securing the top job for retired Gen. aheel Sharif in Riyadh. “All matters had been finalised well before the retirement of Gen Sharif in Riyadh where Nawaz Sharif and Gen Sharif had back to back visits. Nawaz told Raheel that it was a great honour for him (Raheel) to be considered for the slot of heading 39-country Muslim country military alliance,” a source in PMLN told Pak Destiny.   He said Gen Raheel after discussed the offer with his close circle finally decided to accept it.  Some believes that Nawaz played his cards very smartly. By giving this offer to Raheel, Nawaz not only secured himself in the wake of Imran Khan’s protest but also emerged as strong politician.

      Saudi Arab believes that Gen Raheel  with his vast counter-insurgency and counterterrorism leadership skills can be an ‘excellent choice’ as leader.

      However there has been one major controversy over the new job of Gen Raheel. The 39 country military alliance does not have Iran –  the arch rival of Saudi Arabia – is not part of this, thus sentiments of Shia community may be hurt.

     According to Dawn, the Muslim world, wracked by terrorism across great swathes, needs a coherent and coordinated approach to fight the great threats that stalk its lands. And yet, there is remarkably little known about the Saudi initiative that he has reportedly signed up for.

  Two sets of questions are of urgent importance. The first concerns the IMAFT generally. While Saudi officials have touted the broad membership of the alliance, little is known about the role each country is to play.

         More importantly, with several countries still outside the fold, what are the ultimate intentions of the Saudi royal family? Is there a realistic scenario for the participation of all Muslim-majority countries or will a sectarian colour be imposed on the alliance? Specifically, with Iran and Saudi Arabia at odds over a number of issues in the Middle East, will Riyadh permit the involvement of Tehran and its allies in the IMAFT?

       If not, how will it work towards its self-professed goal of fighting terrorism irrespective of sect and wherever the threat is to be found? It could be a fresh disaster for the Muslim world if the Saudi-Iranian rivalry fuels the creation of a new military alliance in the name of fighting terrorism.

     For Pakistan, the challenges are specific. In April 2015, after the Saudi regime had demanded Pakistan contribute to a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen against the Houthis, parliament here took the historic and correct decision of declining to authorise the government to send troops to Yemen.

    “While Gen Sharif is no longer a serving army chief and his decision to join the IMAFT is somewhat independent of the Pakistani state, the fact remains that his high-profile leadership of the alliance will be associated with Pakistan. The government and current military leadership, therefore, must publicly restate or clarify important foreign policy and national security parameters. Specifically, it must be publicly assured that the April 2015 decision taken by parliament will not be contravened and that any Pakistani contribution to the IMAFT will be for specific and clearly identifiable reasons. Clarity and honesty are needed if the alliance is to succeed,” the paper says.

      We wish good luck to Gen Raheel but expect that the new military alliance remains focused in its fight against terrorism under his leadership. – Pak Destiny

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