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Raheel Sharif may assume command of Saudi-led force next month

Updated Mar 26, 2017 07:51am

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GEN Raheel Sharif retired as army chief in November last year.—AFP
GEN Raheel Sharif retired as army chief in November last year.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: Retired army chief Gen Raheel Sharif is likely to assume in April the command of a yet-to-be-formed Saudi-led, 39-country Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), which is being dubbed as a ‘Muslim Nato’.

The government had issued a no-objection certificate for Gen Sharif to join the alliance after an understanding was reached between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia on the matter, retired Maj Gen Ijaz Awan, a defence analyst and close associate of the former army chief, told Dawn on Saturday.

He said the former army chief would be taking charge ahead of a consultative meeting of the defence ministers of the alliance’s members, scheduled for May, in which the participating countries would decide about the force’s structure, their contributions in terms of personnel and armaments, the coalition reserve and other modalities.


Defence ministers of 39-country coalition will meet in May


Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said in a media interview that Saudi Arabia had been intimated in writing about the government’s consent.

The approval was apparently given after relaxing the official rules, which only provide for permission for post-retirement re-employment of retired army officers by a government ministry or division.

The matter was taken up by the Senate in January after the first reports emerged that the former army chief would be moving to Saudi Arabia to join the IMAFT.

The defence minister assured the upper house of parliament that no such request had been received and he would inform it whenever there was a development in this regard. Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz had also said that he would make a statement about the foreign policy implications of retired Gen Sharif’s appointment, whenever and if it happened.

Mr Awan said a contract for three-year employment with the IMAFT would be signed by the former army chief in the coming days.

Moreover, he said, the General Headquarters (GHQ) would be formally intimated by the government that retired Gen Sharif’s services for the new alliance had been permitted as part of “state policy”.

The government has apparently remained ambiguous about whether or not it has formally joined the alliance due to dominant public opinion against becoming a party to the Middle Eastern politics. The deliberate official ambiguity notwithstanding, retired Gen Sharif last March accompanied the prime minister to Raadal Shamaal, the first military exercises of the alliance in which Pakistani troops also participated.

Mr Awan said the former army chief’s immediate tasks at his new job would be the capacity building, interoperability and training of the force and developing mechanisms for experience sharing and intelligence coordination.

He said Pakistan Army’s institutions would be used for training cadets and officers from the member states.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2017

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Comments (102) Closed



Awan Mar 26, 2017 07:59am

I once visited Bosnia. The people there have a great respect for Pakistanis because of UN peacekeeping missions of the past. If General Raheel Sharif will be able to bring peace and stability in the middleeast then I am sure we will earn a great deal of respect in Arab countries as well.

cyber Bhai Mar 26, 2017 07:58am

Now Pakistan is openly leading against Iran, what a diplomacy. Pakistanis may not be against Iran, but they will become biggest opposer (even if symbolically ) against Iran. After cold shoulder (by Pakistan) in Yemen, this is better card played by KSA.

WaQar Mar 26, 2017 08:09am

Great Job, wish you very best of luck sir..

Pakistani Pakhtun Mar 26, 2017 08:18am

Best of luck Sir!

Abdulla hussain Mar 26, 2017 08:20am

Greatest development of this century. Formation of a combined Muslim Armed Forces to fight against terrorism. Lot of new things will happen, general Raheel Shareef will command the formation of a joint armed forces. A great honour for Pakistan

Asad Kokhar Mar 26, 2017 08:22am

He has every right to choose post retirement career, as a private individual.

Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali Mar 26, 2017 08:26am

How in the world the Government of Pakista. allowed Raheel Sharif to work for Saudi Arabia as a general. This is inviolation of Pakistani rule.

shahid Mar 26, 2017 08:27am

Goverment try to please to saudis for success in next election. Same doing ppp they are trying to please usa. In my point view decision is not in favour of Pakistan.

Yankee Cricket Fan Mar 26, 2017 08:45am

There is no such thing as Muslin Nato. It is Arab's way of forming a coalition against Iran.

Shabbir H. Kazmi Mar 26, 2017 08:49am

My request is that the General should not accept this position. This in no way reduces Pakistan's love for the Holy Places. No Muslim, remember Muslim, can even think about attaching these holiest places on earth. It is feared that coalition army is busy in killing of innocent people. The issue of Bahrain and Yemen can be resolved with negotiations rather than arms. Saudi Arab must listen to what people of these two countries are demanding. The military action in 'Killing of Muslims by Muslims'. OIC should also intervene to maintain unity of Ummah.

Zealot Mar 26, 2017 09:07am

Nothing new in that.

Saudis playing dual game,on one side awarding highest civilian award to modi while on the other side,making Raheel Sharif the head of coalition.As long as it is a SAUDI led Coalition,Expect Warmongering,NOTHING ELSE!!!!

Indian4RMBLORE Mar 26, 2017 09:14am

Not a great move,

AXH Mar 26, 2017 09:16am

Disappointing to see Raheel bowing to the Saudis.

Jahanzaib Khan Mar 26, 2017 09:12am

we are always proud of you Mr general Raheel Sharif

amir Mar 26, 2017 10:27am

the Muslim ummah respects the Pak army as the most competent fighting force in its midst . makes me proud !

Noor Mar 26, 2017 11:13am

Congrats Gen Rahil, you made us proud

Prateik Mar 26, 2017 11:14am

Command of IMAFT is a ceremonial position.

DoubleZ Mar 26, 2017 11:20am

Really shameful. Please stay away from the oppressive and corrupt Al-Saud family!

Ali S Mar 26, 2017 11:19am

This is a good lesson in how to ruin your hard-earned reputation by working as a minion for Saudis. Pakistan should stay away from this toxic Sunni-Shia mess.

Faisal Naqvi Mar 26, 2017 11:21am

A very sad news. Conflict of interest.

well meaning Mar 26, 2017 11:23am

wait for iranian response on this . they are not going to like it. ultimately it will be harmful. though it will be good for fight against terrorism .

Liaqat Khan Mar 26, 2017 11:38am

Salute to Gen Raheel shareef. He is a symbol of proud for Muslims

Attaullah - Thul Mar 26, 2017 12:03pm

A proud moment and controversial simultaneously.

Abdulla Hussain Mar 26, 2017 12:10pm

Great News, you have proud Pakistan Sir. Wishing you best of success.

shakur adnan Mar 26, 2017 12:19pm

why would raheel sharif lead IMAFT? , Being Ex-chief he should serve and guide Pak military force ? It has been our bad luck since the independence 1947 that our leaders add fuel to the flame by spreading religious conflict and political influences for personal benefit.

Zak Mar 26, 2017 12:20pm

Worst decision ever.As it will create more controversy and finally hate.Please revert this decision for your highly gained respect.

PAK-SAUD IND-IRN Mar 26, 2017 12:22pm

Saudi Arabia participating in Pakistan day. Is Pakistan being friendly with Saudi Arabia Implies that India becomes friendly with Iran?

Sridhar Raghunatha Rao Mar 26, 2017 12:25pm

My very hearty Congratulations to Gen Raheel Sharif on taking up the prestigious post of leading 39 Nations Army for fighting Terrorism. Very est Wishes for a Great Success.

HMN Mar 26, 2017 12:20pm

Great men should know when they are falling in a trap. A move which is as bad as Zia's decision to declare jehad in Afghanistan. The outcome Pakistan has been suffering and Afghanistan has become hostile. This move by the General will be regretted by the generations to come. God Bless Pakistan.

Striker Mar 26, 2017 12:37pm

Command is in good hands now!

Good and bad Mar 26, 2017 12:40pm

Is this move by Raheel Sharif good for India-Iran relationship but bad for India-Saudi Relationship?.

AR Mallick Mar 26, 2017 12:46pm

Congratulation Chief. This is most deserving position has come to u. Good Luck, These are all as good as Pak Citizens.

Yousuf Mar 26, 2017 01:10pm

An honour for Pakistan and well deserve placement of Raheel Sharif. His success will be success of entire Muslim Ummah.

aslam shaikh Mar 26, 2017 01:23pm

This will be an honor for Pakistan. He will unite Muslims.

Zak Mar 26, 2017 01:27pm

@Zak good decision. He will lead a multi force and instil some professionalism and wisdom in it. He will ensure, no country is targeted like Iran. We are proud of him.

Narad Muni Mar 26, 2017 01:28pm

@Yousuf : success of entire Muslim Ummah..

KSA will ask him to fight Yemenis.. What ummah??

Narad Muni Mar 26, 2017 01:32pm

When KSA starts killing Yemenis, they need to plant the blame on someone.

Indian4RMBLORE Mar 26, 2017 01:35pm

Pak will have more disadvantages then any advantage. Not a great move by Ex General

Narad Muni Mar 26, 2017 01:35pm

@PAK-SAUD IND-IRN : Saudi and Iran are more friendly with India and Modi. Highest KSA award was given to Modi.

Real zak Mar 26, 2017 01:40pm

@Narad Muni that is what I have written first

Murshid mera Mar 26, 2017 01:41pm

@Good and bad ..Indians are one of the smartest diplomatic people around. They had good ties with Iran since a long time and Modi has worked to strengthen ties with Saudi's a lot. Its always a win-win for India

Sheroo Mar 26, 2017 01:38pm

I think it's a bad move, but then it's a career move too.

Rizvi Mar 26, 2017 01:38pm

Yes Sir this is the best time to prove your knowledge and military skills in Muslim world.

Hyder Mar 26, 2017 01:51pm

It does not bode well for a retired chief of army staff to go and lead an army of mercenaries who are paid to attack a poor Muslim nation.

So far ten thousand Yemeni civilians have been killed by Saudi led alliance and millions are facing death due to lack of food and medicine.

abdul Mar 26, 2017 01:57pm

finally step taken

Ilias from NL Mar 26, 2017 01:56pm

So complicated everything become on this point, General Raheel should put Pakistan at first place and decide if it in favor of interests of Pakistan rather than Saudi Arabia or he him self. Very serious matter of regional politics !

Ilias from NL Mar 26, 2017 02:06pm

There should be a rule in place in Pakistan which stop all these retired Generals to go abroad for jobs. Very irresponsible move and no one taking care about such matters.

Jabbar Mar 26, 2017 02:11pm

This is a personal matter between a professional and an employer and there I see no need for the state to get involved . His role should not provide policy cover and Pakistan should make decisions best for its future instead of worrying about being represented by a retired general . GHQ and Pakistan government should make policy based on institutional leadership,individuals come and go . This should not change our stance in Yemen.

mustafa Mar 26, 2017 02:14pm

only in pakistan are we short sighted to cheer this and not see it for what it is...

Yasoob Mar 26, 2017 02:13pm

It is simply to save Saudi interest

Muneeb Mar 26, 2017 02:20pm

This proves that the wise decision of staying away from the Saudi-led alliance and the war in Yemen, when Raheel Sharif was COAS, was one taken by the civil leadership and Parliament. Kudos to them.

Faisal Mar 26, 2017 02:53pm

Everything has a price.

faizan Mar 26, 2017 03:04pm

Iran is our ally.

Naved Mar 26, 2017 03:06pm

If this Muslim countries army alliance will not be used against any other Muslim country or it will be just a defensive force against ISIS/Al Qaeda, other terrorist organisations and real aggressors then there is no problem in Raheel Sharif taking its charge as the chief. Hitting inside any country by this force will be very unfortunate. Future activities of the Saudi led alliance will unfold the implication of this decision. We need to wait and see.

Taimoor khan Mar 26, 2017 03:07pm

If RS is not answerable to anyone in this role then he will make difference. If he will be under king or his sons, he rather stay put and stay home.

Kamran Mar 26, 2017 03:14pm

A very strong opportunity which Pakistan never had before and now Raheel should set up an advisory board from Pakistan as well from different walk of life , econmic, politics, military, overseas to provide him input which would help Pakistan to build out new Pakistan in every corridor of Middle East.

The primary interest should be economic and immigrants there to rival out other labour on competition.

Ijaz Mar 26, 2017 03:20pm

A huge and monumental mistake.

BilalBerberi Mar 26, 2017 03:21pm

Its heartning to have former Army chief R.S leading "Muslim Nato". But the terrorism that will be fought against under this umbrella should be clearly defined. We hope that this Nato will not be used only against Iranian Muslims and also against its allies.

Liaqat Khan Mar 26, 2017 03:27pm

Good luck

W Shaikh Mar 26, 2017 03:33pm

Gen. Raheel lost all respect and credibility by assuming this role.

Iftikhar Husain Mar 26, 2017 04:04pm

This is a very controversial issue knowing the political situation of the ME where the Islam is split in two major faction and nobody can tell this force will be used against whom we hope not against Iran.

Raza Mar 26, 2017 04:14pm

This coalition is only to protect arab kingdms.if saudis or arabs were sincere about ummah they have invested their trillions of dollar to reduce the poverty of muslim ummah and spent their wealth accumulated in America and europe for the education and science and technology of muslim ummah.

CONCERNED Mar 26, 2017 04:51pm

Very bad decision!!! Pakistanis do NOT want to be part of Saudi-Iranian mess of sectarianism. Also, by real or perceived alliance against Iran, we are pushing Iran towards India. We NEED friends in our own neighborhood.

Ali Mar 26, 2017 04:55pm

if he can do something for Palestine and Burmese people then this appointment is OK

Azhar Awan Mar 26, 2017 05:00pm

Although I believe it will curtail General Rhaeel Shareef's image. However, either his stay will be very limited or he will be successful to make a peace with Yemen and he can't do anything in Syria. He will be able to put together a force and mechanism to protect Arbian pensula.

Truth be told Mar 26, 2017 04:58pm

Consequences of the Generals move has serious foreign policy consequences and cause further schism between Shias a nod Sunnis .

Taurious Mar 26, 2017 05:05pm

It would be better to have a "Muslim Council" which incorporates" all muslim countries who "equally have responsibility for the the two holy sites", and do away with the "house of Saud" This "military alliance being touted by the Saudi house does not bode well for anyone"

Syed zafar kazmi u.s.a Mar 26, 2017 05:32pm

Unfortunately but very obviously, this is going to be the first & final nail into the coffin of sectarian as well as regional harmony that was already a major target of terrorists. This is the ultimate success of the agenda of terrorists who want to see nothing less than civil war in Pakistan. I believe while Pakistanis would duly mourn this decision, Choudhry Nisar & Sanaullah deserve congratulations

Raja farhat abbas Mar 26, 2017 05:54pm

@faizan ...Iran is not our ally any more,they support the Indians.

Masood Mar 26, 2017 06:14pm

If this action is purely for the 'terrorism prevention', most welcome to the general and the govt. of Pakistan. If it is pitched against Iran, Iraq or other Shia dominated countries, then it is a disgrace

BECHARAPAKISTAN Mar 26, 2017 06:20pm

Seriously, so much for him being the ICON....sad and disappointing

Zak Mar 26, 2017 06:30pm

@cyber Bhai no it's not.

Zak Mar 26, 2017 06:32pm

@Awan well said.

Ahmad Mar 26, 2017 06:31pm

@Yankee Cricket Fan Totally!

tattia pretam Mar 26, 2017 07:47pm

@Prateik i agree

Wani Mar 26, 2017 08:28pm

Disappointing move.

Changez Khan Mar 26, 2017 08:35pm

There is NO doubt Gen. Raheel Sharif will be do a great job. Good luck Sir. We are proud of our Pakistan Armed Forces.

hai Mar 26, 2017 10:37pm

Very good news.

Umar Munir Mar 27, 2017 12:10am

@Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali Why not? He is qualified. Muslim world needs brave generals. Then why not?

TT Mar 27, 2017 12:12am

Bad news for india. Now we will have a secondary force too. So much for isolating pakistan.

Nitin Mar 27, 2017 12:35am

@Zak good decision by KSA , it takes one to know the other. He will know how to deal with terrorists.

pathanoo Mar 27, 2017 12:53am

@Yankee Cricket Fan ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

Smazr Mar 27, 2017 03:16am

A bad decision.

Vijay Mar 27, 2017 04:17am

@Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali General Raheel after retirement can do what he wants. He wore his uniform and was an honorable man. But he needs no lessons from "honorable " politicians.

Khan Vie Mar 27, 2017 04:34am

@Taimoor khan Many factors will play out, one is what will be the combination and composition of the forces: GRS will be responsible to train and prepare and maintain intra operational ability only, not to decide, who and where to attack at the end of day. Those 39 countries will decided the policy matter. Forces will be trained in Pakistan military academies, that is longer term benefit and know how on various types types of weapons systems: I.e. French, Russian, USA, British.

Azmeen Mar 27, 2017 04:49am

The best Military chief in modern times.

helloWorld Mar 27, 2017 05:42am

Probably thats why the extension of general position after retirement was not entertained?

Tahir Mar 27, 2017 07:22am

What if Pakistan want Arab world to stand for Kashmir issue.

El Cid Mar 27, 2017 02:54pm

@Tahir No this collation is against Iran, not India. The idea is to further divide Muslim allegiances.

khan Mar 27, 2017 02:56pm

good keep it up sir

muhammad zaman Mar 27, 2017 02:59pm

Every country has a right to form Foreign Policy. Pakistan should go ahead. United we can manufacture latest arms, carry out R&D and will not be dependent on other nations. Iran has a defense pact with India and Pakistan has not objected. In future, Iran will also join this coalition. because divided we fall and united we stand.

SNK_INDIAN Mar 27, 2017 03:38pm

No one will get benefited by this alliance except Saudis ruling family. It will be worst ever decision made by Pakistan.

SNK_INDIAN Mar 27, 2017 03:49pm

At this point of time Pakistan should think only about economic development and should not indulge in any such chaos designed by saudis to protect it's own interest.

Syed zafar kazmi u.s.a Mar 27, 2017 04:43pm

@Awan You must be living in some Lala land of dreams and fantasy as the world knows that Saudi Arabia is not busy in the world spreading peace, love and harmony. It has been bombarding the daylights out of the abjectly poor & hungry Muslim Yemen for the last more than 2years without pause and it is blockading all basic aid of food & medicines to the dying men, women and children of the Muslim Yemen.

Shan Mar 27, 2017 05:31pm

It is not Muslim Nato but Secterian based Saudi-led Coalition and Respected Raheel Shareef is not an individual in the eyes of Iran and Iran's allies but a representative of Pakistan and an ex-army chief of Pakistan. It is a great card played by KSA to involve Pakistan in Middle East crises either physically or symbolically. If he joins the Saudi-led coalition, Pakistan will no longer be seen as a neutral country.

pragmatist Mar 27, 2017 06:27pm

@Awan ............Peace and stability for Arabs is a wishful thinking. They are doomed to destroy themselves due to their social injustice, arrogance and feeling non-vulnerable. Neither Raheel Sharif nor anyone else can make any difference.

asad Mar 27, 2017 06:23pm

Great Soldier.

Boo ali Mar 27, 2017 08:26pm

If this dream of the conspirator comes true. This will be the second most dangerous blunder after those of the Zia's regime.

rashid ansim Mar 27, 2017 09:29pm

I don't know why so many people have their opinion about this move. Raheel Sharif is among the very few honest people in Pakistan. He deserves the respect and honor. May God help him in his next mission.

sss Mar 28, 2017 02:02am

Iran is our fellow muslim brother country as well our neighbour and it should be part of this alliance; otherwise it will fail and Raheel will lose goodwill, we have suffered enough at the hand of Saudis and this is not about Shia or Sunni....first and foremost we are muslim brothers.

Moth Mar 28, 2017 03:05am

This move is essential to stabilize the Muslim countries.

ayza Mar 28, 2017 07:08am

All of us as patriotic Pakistanis need to give our National Hero, Gen. Raheel Sharif a chance to prove to the world - and especially to fellow Muslim coalition members that rather then simply "rubber stamp" his responsibilities, he will serve honorably and wisely. He certainly deserves this honorable leadership position, he has more then earned it through his selfless dedication in ridding Pakistan of countless heinous elements.

One can be sure Gen. Sharif will also play an integral role in his newly appointed position and certainly won't let anyone steer him off course. His steadfast courage and strength of conviction to do what's morally and ethically right will be reflected in his role as Commander of this Islamic military force. We wish and pray he will succeed in strengthening our brethren nations and bring lasting peace to a long suffering member nations.