By: Mina Ahmadi

Controversy over fmr. Pakistani cmdr. joining Saudi-led coalition

News ID: 3959189 -
TEHRAN, Apr. 22 (MNA) – Pakistan’s Defense Minister has recently confirmed that the country’s former Army Chief has been appointed as commander of so-called Saudi-led military coalition.

The move, however, has enthused controversy in Pakistan with many questioning General Raheel Sharif’s motivation to become part of the Saudi initiative whose objectives are still mysterious.

No-objection certificate

This appointment has sparked controversy in Pakistan.

According to Pakistani media report, the Islamabad government has issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) for Sharif to assume the command of the controversial alliance after an understanding was reached between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the matter.

Several Pakistani opposition parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), are also doubtful of Sharif’s role in the alliance.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan has tasked parliamentarians of his party with taking the issue to the parliament.

Opposition lawmakers consider the decision a violation of a parliamentary resolution passed in April 2015 that called on Pakistan to maintain a policy of neutrality, particularly in the Saudi aggression against Yemen.

The Saudi campaign, which allegedly seeks to restore Yemen's ex-government to power, has killed over 12,000 Yemenis, according to the latest tallies.

Meanwhile, Qaumi Watan Party Chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao has questioned why Pakistan had agreed to become a member of the Saudi-led coalition without first finding out the aims and objectives of the alliance.

A recent editorial published in Dawn newspaper has questioned the clandestine nature of the move.

“The secrecy surrounding the move raises many questions about our policymaking process. The argument that the government could not refuse the Saudi request makes us appear more like a client state,” the paper said.

Some political activists have blamed the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for colluding with some royals from Arab monarchies over the issue. Sharif spent nearly seven years in political exile in Saudi Arabia and has close personal ties with royal families of the Persian Gulf Arab countries.

Saudi-led coalition

In December 2015, Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the formation of an alliance of Muslim-majority countries, which now numbers 40. Riyadh claims the alliance has been formed to fight extremist groups such as the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

The alliance does not include any countries with Shia-dominated governments, such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.

According to a Euronews report, some analysts see formation of the alliance as part of Saudi Arabian efforts to take the leading role in the Middle East and the Muslim world.

Defense Minister Khawaja Asif earlier confirmed that the Pakistani government had cleared Sharif to take up the job as the head of the Riyadh-based military coalition following a formal request from Saudi Arabia.

The controversial appointment has been strongly denounced by some politicians, retired army officers and intellectuals, Shia and moderate Sunni Muslim leaders.

The Saudi government had surprised many countries by announcing that it had forged a coalition for coordinating and supporting military operations against terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

The coalition includes countries like Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen among others.

Inappropriate appointment

A senior Pakistani analyst believes that appointment of Sharif, as Saudi led coalition chief is not appropriate.

Retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, said the whole coalition is controversial and heading an organization which does not have the full support of Muslim world is not a correct decision to be made.

Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has confirmed the recent development that former army chief General (retired) Raheel Sharif was made the chief of Saudi led coalition.

Lieutenant General (retired) Talat Masood told IRNA that this coalition backs Saudi Arabia which is fighting war in Yemen and has its own interests. “There are many countries which are backing Saudi Arabia, but at the same time there are also countries which are opposing Saudi Arabia in Yemen,” he noted.

He said at the personal level, this appointment shows that General Raheel Sharif’s services during his 3-year tenure as Pakistan Army Chief had been lauded and the Saudis have appointed him on the basis of his performance as Pakistan's former army chief. But the fact is that this appointment has been done by approval of Pakistani government, so there seems to be sort of approval of military engagement against Yemen by this coalition.

“One should be very careful while engaging in military operation in Yemen specially when there is no unanimity in the Muslim world specially regarding Yemen conflict,” said the analyst.

He viewed the coalition cannot fulfill its targets without key regional countries rather it could become a coalition against each other actually.

Who is General Raheel Sharif?

General Sharif was born in Pakistan and is a member of the families of soldiers who killed in the war between India and Pakistan.

A staunch opponent of Indian policies, Sharif is considered as most influential Pakistani military commanders.

He also suspended the trial of ex_ Pakistani Presidnet Pervez Musharraf and prevented any attempt by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for forging peace between Pakistan and India.

In December 2016, Musharraf has claimed that General Sharif helped him leave the country by keeping the government from pressuring the courts.

“Well he (Raheel Sharif) did help me. I have been his boss and I have been the Army Chief before him… he helped out, because the cases are politicized, they put me on the ECL (exit control list), they turned it into a political issue,” Musharraf said.

General Sharif managed to establish a militant network across Pakistan and enhanced the security of Karachi which is considered as the country’s financial capital.

Last year, General Sharif announced that peace (in Karachi) is crucial because of its direct link with the country’s economic progress.

 He also safeguarded the security in Baluchistan’s economic corridor, which plays a pivotal role in reinforcing relations between China and Pakistan.  Touching upon General Sharif’s experiences in military and economic affairs of Pakistan, it seems that the appointing him as the first commanding general of Islamic military alliance is considered as an important potential in terms of staffing, financial resources and networking its affiliated militias.

Now the million-dollar question is what is the definition of terrorism in the military alliance’s point of view?

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