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Raheel Sharif’s new job

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A QUIET retirement it has not been. In the weeks since former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif retired from the military, barely a day has gone by without Gen Sharif or events connected to him being in the news.

Now has come perhaps the biggest surprise: the recently retired army chief is rumoured to have been selected to lead a so-called Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism created by the ambitious, young Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman.

To the extent that the IMAFT is a large bloc of Muslim-majority countries — 39 at the latest count, according to Saudi authorities — focused on combating international terrorists, the retired general with his vast counter-insurgency and counterterrorism leadership skills could be an excellent choice as leader.

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.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1


Comments (74) Closed



Hari Har Jan 08, 2017 01:46am

Pakistan's sovereignty, democratic values, ethnic and linguistic diversity and military might need protection from becoming subservient to the rich, developed and mighty countries like KSA and China.

Haider Jan 08, 2017 02:05am

No such questions were asked when Pakistan joined USA war after 911. S whats wrong if a Pak General heads this coalation. Its an honour.

tac Jan 08, 2017 03:37am

Dear nagging neighbors both east and west sides of pakistan plz stop funding and interefering in pakistani media with issues related ith pakistan internal security matters . Nobody was with us kashmiris were butched by indians,nullification of indus water treaty and isolation of pakistan by india after uri terror attack. So plz live and let us live

SGH Jan 08, 2017 04:27am

I am not feeling well about this posting. I have great respect for Gen. Raheel Sharif, as Pakistan Army successfully fought against terror in Pakistan under his dynamic leadership. What are the terms of working conditions in the contract between Gen. Sharif and the Saudi Arabia led IMAFT? Would he lead a fight against the soldiers of Iran and Syria?

Haji Saleem Jan 08, 2017 05:17am

An understandable comment which represents each Pakistani national s feelings.

Syed F. Hussaini Jan 08, 2017 05:40am

Our manpower had been a big export commodity for the last 45 years.

Khalid Al Mulla Kuwait Jan 08, 2017 11:24am

Horrible! Respect your nation first General. Saudis should't be employer of Pakistani generals. We have not gone that low yet.

Faisal bajwa Jan 08, 2017 11:30am

And they thought Pakistan could be Isolated! LOL

umar Jan 08, 2017 11:50am

He is still needed in Pakistan.

MOH Jan 08, 2017 12:09pm

Muslim world need to look into their own interpretations and idelogies they follow. Otherwise it's just waste of time and money.

MUHAMMAD ARSHAD SIDDIQUI Jan 08, 2017 12:24pm

Good Decision, He is a man who not takes dictation , it means the power of IMA is in true hands and future outcome will be realistic and longer lasting and finally peace , InshAllah.

Rashid Nasim Jan 08, 2017 12:53pm

It is a good program Saudi defense minister have come up with. None of the Muslim country is independently capable to fight international terrorism. Saudi as a country is a leader of Muslim world and this is a step in right direction. Look at the sincerity of Saudis that they have not assigned this leadership task to any Saudi, they picked the most qualified General to lead this effort. I wish Saudi and RS success and will keep them in my prayers.

muxdur Jan 08, 2017 01:05pm

Gen Sharif's decision to further his 'career' through an alliance the general perception of which is 'shady' to say the least has, at the least, proved that the nation should stop looking for its 'leaders' among salaried class.

Kams 724 Jan 08, 2017 01:50pm

Unfortunate and controversial decision

Dr Mohsin kazmi Jan 08, 2017 01:51pm

@Rashid Nasim Saudis are not capable and lack required skill

s.m. jamil Jan 08, 2017 02:21pm

The last sentence of the story is the crux of the matter.

Javed Jan 08, 2017 02:30pm

United we stand divided we fall. Bold decision by Gen. Raheel Sharif to lead the Islamic army to protect Muslims from West initiated terrorism. I wish all the Muslim countries join hands forgetting their differences. Iqbal said to the Muslims of Hindustan:

Na samjho ge to mit jao ge aye Hindustan walo Tmhari dastaan tk na rhe ge dastaano me

sHAHID aLI Jan 08, 2017 02:34pm

Correct and realistic!

AHSAN Jan 08, 2017 03:18pm

Very unfortunate indeed

Masoud Jan 08, 2017 03:29pm

If it is for the benefit of Ummah then this is the best decision, the Ummah needs a commander like Gen. Raheel Shareef. Pakistan cannot disassociate itself from the responsibility of helping Ummah in whatever way possible.

Masoud Jan 08, 2017 03:30pm

@Hari Har: My friend, difficult for you to understand. There is no need for Pakistan to become subservient of anyone. Pakistan has a close friendship & responsibility towards Ummah states. Pakistan is already imparting training to most of cadets from Ummah countries, nothing new is taking place.

AllB Jan 08, 2017 04:11pm

Congratulations Sir!

Shiraz Jan 08, 2017 05:50pm

@Hari Har - He is not Nawaz Sharif or Zardari who were and still are doing damage to Pakistan, just look at US Ambassador top secret letters, what both have said, we are ashamed to saw in Wikileaks. Gen Sharif is a true Pakistani patriot and will develop Pakistani images in Arab and rest of the World with his leadership qualities and I m sure on his return, he will also lead Pakistan.

Ayub Jan 08, 2017 05:53pm

The decision to appoint Mr.Raheel as chief of IMAFT was made at GHQ without obtaining the agreement of other relevant quarters. The GHQ does not come under the jurisdiction of the elected government.

abbas Jan 08, 2017 05:49pm

bad decision & disappointed

abc Jan 08, 2017 05:57pm

Inclusion of Iran in the alliance will allay all the confusions.

syed zafar kazmI U.S Jan 08, 2017 06:19pm

As ever, the criticism and analysis by Dawn especially as summed up in the last paragraph is a voice of sanity and true patriotism concerned for the country as well as the region.

Tahir Khattak Jan 08, 2017 08:45pm

Raheel Sharif should play a role as a Arbitrator in the Iran and Saudi Arabia and provide a fruitful environment to both countries for their better relationship. Add Iran to the group, this will largely control the sectarianism in the Arab countries. The rehabilitation of the Saudia And iran relationship will be the Ist fruitful result of the IMAFT.

Ayub Jan 08, 2017 10:07pm

He should have devoted himself to the people his own country who have been suffering from severe social injustices, ignorance, and discrimination.

Nadir Aziz Jan 08, 2017 11:27pm

In my opinion, there is a lot of ambiguity regarding the IMAFT. Raheel Sharif would be well advised to wait before committing until the whole set up is crystal clear.

QNFK Jan 08, 2017 11:33pm

Thank You Raheel Sharif

Parvez Jan 08, 2017 11:59pm

Nice and balanced.

Sara Jan 09, 2017 12:34am

Russians are leaving syria, so its a great initiative by tge Saudies, and they choose a good guy to lead the forces. This will surely strengthen the muslin ummah.

A Cursed pakistani Jan 09, 2017 01:24am

There is a rate smell in his urgent appointment. According to the laws under no circumstances he can accept such a sensitive position with any state, let alone an extremists regime KSA. A regime who is responsible for the dtruction of a vast number of countries.

KashQ Jan 09, 2017 02:18am

Pakistan stands at a unique position. Our capabilities plus good relations with SA, Iran, and US positions us well to remove misunderstandings among all stake holders. Being a responsible nuclear state, it is a wise decision to play a pivotal told for regional peace.

Ahmer saeed Jan 09, 2017 08:13am

@Kams 724 why unfortunate? he completed his tenure he is free to make his own decisions . The people raising hue and cry are the same who wanted him to grab the democratically elected Govt now that he didn't and made a dignified exit these people have problems because he took a decision which doesn't fulfill there whims ...

Pak Patriot Jan 09, 2017 09:27am

Gen Raheel, I have the utmost respect for you, but this job Sir, is NOT a good idea.

A Khan Jan 09, 2017 11:30am

Raheel puts his earned reputation at stake; controversial decision

RAHIM Jan 09, 2017 11:40am

He could have stayed as COAS if he wanted to and help the people of Pakistan.

hnmirza Jan 09, 2017 11:44am

Was this position promised well before retirement? Were any of Pakistan ' s national interests compromised during the negotiations? I pray not!

nouman Jan 09, 2017 12:08pm

An immaculate and to-the-point article, asking simple but very critical questions.

Faisal Jan 09, 2017 12:43pm

Knowing how Gen Raheel Sharif conducted his role as COAS, I am sure he mus have given due thought and sought necessary clarifications /assurances from the Saudi govt before accepting this role. If this was role related to coalition in Afghanistan or Africa no one would have lifted an eyelid but since Saudi Arabia is involved we all want to criticize Raheel Sharif's move.

S. Lalani Jan 09, 2017 02:09pm

So that is why he did not seek extension in his tenure as Army Chief. Disappointed by his decision!

Ahmad R. Shahid Jan 09, 2017 02:21pm

Does the law barring government servants taking gainful employment before 2 years after the retirement, still holds in this case?

sam Jan 09, 2017 02:20pm

General Raheel is retired now, he has a private life he is free to decide whatever he wants to do his life, he is no longer a employee of government of Pakistan.

Masoud Jan 09, 2017 02:49pm

Good Luck to Ge. raheel Sharif, may he succeed in his efforts to defeat terrorism internationally.

Bewildered Jan 09, 2017 03:07pm

I see no reason to doubt it his joining of his new job. This kind of alliance requires a sensible and statesman like general who will ably command the army and would never cross the limit that could be detrimental to his personal reputation and larger peace of the region.

In my opinion he is the most important and able person to make this coalition a success and keeping it on the right track.

malik humayoun Jan 09, 2017 03:07pm

Excellent decision our leader RAHEEL SHARIF keep it up

Hopeful Jan 09, 2017 03:12pm

I believe a certain section of our society who dont like Saudi monarchy (for right or wrong reasons) is in pain and trying to exaggerate his joining in a negative manner. Just give this gentleman a chance and see what comes out of his leading the same coalition.

Muhammad Ahmed Jan 09, 2017 03:25pm

Will this Muslim coalition retake Jammu Kashmir from India? Will Raheel Sharif work for Kashmir's??

Well Meaning Jan 09, 2017 03:46pm

Iran is not going to like it . The terrorist back lash also has to be kept in mind. before taking such a position RS should have sought govt clearance a because as per Army rule for 3 years he cannot take any job without govt permission

Gustaakh Jan 09, 2017 03:51pm

The editorial reaches exactly the right conclusion. While it is a personal matter for Gen (R) Raheel Sharif to head the coalition, Pakistan's position should be made completely unambiguous. The government must put a distance between Gen (R) Sharif and official government policy.

hasan mehmood Jan 09, 2017 04:08pm

@Muhammad Ahmed Are you joking?

byju Jan 09, 2017 04:59pm

this will not be liked by iran with whom pakistan is having a difficult relationship.

Altaf Jan 09, 2017 05:08pm

Gen Raheel with due respect you have no right to work under these Arabs as they 'll scrutinize u n ur services they way they do it for your fellow country men COME N SEE THEM N THEIR REAL FACES INSHALLAH.

Iftikhar Husain Jan 09, 2017 05:27pm

Will Pakistan gain anything from this?

narrow minded Jan 09, 2017 06:23pm

@Well Meaning Who cares if Iran doesn't like it?

Rahil_sharif Jan 09, 2017 06:20pm

Some of us support Iran and other support Saudi Arabia. why not think in term of Pakistan? If the govt of Pakistan allowed him to lead this alliance force then what is wrong in that? Its an honor for Pakistan. He is not representing Saudi force but alliance force of 39 Muslim countries. Iran and other remaining counties can later become part of it.

Aun Ali Jan 09, 2017 06:49pm

@Haider If we were wrong once, does not mean same legacy has to be repeat!

Mansha Sherazi Jan 09, 2017 07:19pm

It is an apparent confession of the outstanding abilities of General Raheel Sharif, how hails from Pakistan, it can be termed as the glorified feather added to the crown of Raheel Sharif. Pakistan should feel proud regardless of the lobbying efforts with covert objectives of misleading the nation by certain sectors of the society.

Touchy!! Jan 09, 2017 07:43pm

My 2 Cents: Very good step. Muslim world will see its benefit in the near future. Lot of challenges being faced by Muslim across the world. Much needed alliance. Pre: Rest Vs one Muslim country (at a time) Post: Rest Vs Muslim alliance

Rahil Jan 09, 2017 08:02pm

Now we have some people itching when our General is leading an Islamic coalition (at least endorsed by nothing less than 39 nations). There was no problem when Musharraf joined a war that had nothing to do with us. How come joining a coalition of 39 countries would isolate Pakistan? Even if it means shunning Iran (which has never been a friend).

MHS Jan 09, 2017 09:28pm

I thought government servants need a period between there service and there out of country jobs or annual leaves

Afzal Mir Jan 10, 2017 01:10am

A BAD MOVE. Is Iran on board with some kind of understanding on all this?

Bea Jan 10, 2017 01:24am

@Khalid Al Mulla Kuwait why should he its not about nation the man is unemployed someone has offered him a job he has taken it thats his choice, would you turn down a good job offer if you were unemployed i dont think you would, why is it that pakistan always seems to make a huge drama out of everything its his choice what he does not yours you have no say in it.

Mohammad Aryubi Jan 10, 2017 02:52am

His new job will certainly cast a shadow on Pakistan's relations with its immediate neighbor- Iran

Warrior Jan 10, 2017 04:10am

Those who are calling this a bad decision from Raheel Sharif knows nothing about politics.

ammar saeed Jan 10, 2017 06:51am

@SGH its very much wrong for him to work in another country and fight a war.

hAMID Jan 10, 2017 09:12am

@Hari Har how can you compare saudi with china .....how does it compete with china and count it as developed country?

ASIM iQBAL Jan 10, 2017 09:34am

@Haider agree totally...

omer khan Jan 10, 2017 10:12am

@muxdur your contempt for the salried class is obvious, the hard core professionals who excel at their jobs. what about the monied class who never had to work a day in their lives...where have they brought the country?

Ahsan Rauf Bhatti Jan 10, 2017 10:49am

This whole situation is confusing as well as very much focused on the security of the royals. From the time Saudi leadership raised voice against US on there role in Syria and taking away sanctions over Iran, US has sidelined royals. Due to this reason, loosing the royalty has become a grave concern for the Sauds. Since now US is no more interested in securing the sauds in the time of need, royals have gone there own way and created the alliance in their own luxurious palaces.

The point now is this that as praised and man of honour like our X chief, should he tarnish his respect by joining as head of the alliance solely made by the royals? And if so , how Pakistani military can stay away from any decision made by the new head.

Kabir Jan 10, 2017 11:04am

Gen Raheel should have given some consideration before joining such a controversial alliance, whose main aim is to preserve the Arab Kingdoms especially Saudi Monarchy and to further their interests in the region especially in Yemen where this coalition is committing war crime against poor fellow Muslims. This alliance have nothing to do with fight against terrorism and / or Daesh otherwise they would have been fighting against Daesh alongside Iran, Iraq and Syrian army in Iraq and Syria

Masoud Jan 10, 2017 12:40pm

@Hari Har: I think there is no need to worry. Whatever decision Gen Raheel Sharif will take will never go against Pakistan. Pakistan, KSA, China & most of the arab countries are on the same page. Pakistan has been sending since long several military personnels on deputation to train & guide respective government on military matters. Raheel Sharif joining any Islamic coalition force of any gulf country should not come as a surprise, this will benefit Pakistan.