Islamabad: Pakistan’s recently retired army chief Gen Raheel Sharif will head a Saudi Arabia-led 39-nation Islamic military coalition formed to combat terrorism, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Friday.
Asif, while speaking during a talk show on Geo TV, admitted that an agreement in this regard was finalised a few days back. He, however, said he did not have much information about the details of the said agreement. Asif said the decision was taken after taking the incumbent government into confidence and “it was finalised here first”. The headquarters of the new Saudi-led coalition would be based in Riyadh.
The Defence Minister said any such assignment or posting requires proper clearance from the government and General Headquarters (GHQ) both and confirmed that the due process was followed before finalising the agreement.
“As you are aware that this thing was in the pipeline for quite some time and the Prime Minister was also part of the deliberations,” Asif was quoted as saying by Dawn News.
He was of the opinion that formation of such an alliance is a good step, as the “Muslim Ummah (community) is in a spot of bother right now and needs unity among its ranks”.
Raheel retired as the army chief in November and has been succeeded by General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Pakistan had initially found itself in the cross-hairs of Middle Eastern politics as Saudi Arabia named it as part of its newly-formed military alliance of Muslim countries meant to combat terrorism, without first getting its consent. However, after initial ambiguity, the government had confirmed its participation in the alliance, but had said that the scope of its participation would be defined after Riyadh shared the details of the coalition it was assembling.
The coalition was envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, equipment and troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism. 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.
Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen, the report said. The coalition includes countries like Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen among others.