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Raheel leaves for Riyadh to command military alliance

Updated Apr 22, 2017 02:49pm

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ISLAMABAD: Former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif on Friday left for Riyadh to assume the command of the 41-nation Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) after the government quietly cleared him to serve the coalition, which is gradually taking shape.

“Gen Raheel Sharif has been issued an NOC to join IMAFT after GHQ’s consent and meeting legal formalities,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told a TV channel, as a special aircraft sent by the Saudi government landed in Lahore to take the retired army chief to Riyadh.

Gen Sharif was lauded at home for leading Operation Zarb-i-Azb that centered on North Waziristan, once considered the hotbed of terrorism, but his decision to serve the Saudi-led alliance has been severely criticised. The alliance, believed to be the brainchild of ambitious Saudi defence minister and deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Salman, was formed to help member states deal with the problem of terrorism, but people fear that it may get involved in the Middle East’s political disputes.


Defence minister says NOC issued after GHQ consent and meeting legal formalities


This perception got strengthened after Saudi defence forces spokesman Gen Assiri told the Wall Street Journal that the alliance wasn’t restricted to confronting terrorist organisations like the militant Islamic State group and Al Qaeda. He said the coalition could, at the request of a member, move against rebel groups and militias posing a threat to member countries such as Yemen’s Houthis, which are supported by Iran.

The absence of countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria, which have been at the forefront of fighting terrorism, from the alliance has led many to believe that the coalition is nothing but a sectarian show of force to counter rising influence of Iran in the region.

Iran has publicly expressed its reservations about a Pakistani leading the alliance. Pakistani officials have in both private and in bilateral engagement tried to assure Tehran that Gen Sharif would not act against Iranian interests.

The final terms of reference of the alliance and its structure are expected to be announced at the upcoming conference of the defence ministers of the member states. Contributions by the individual member states, both in terms of hardware and personnel, will be made at the conference.

The alliance will be governed by a council of defence ministers of the member states. The Joint Command Centre would, meanwhile, be based in Riyadh.

The government had in a statement in the Senate assured that the house would be informed before issuance of the NOC, which had so far not been sought by the former army chief. The assurance was not fulfilled and the announcement regarding the NOC was made only when the general prepared to leave.

Apparently the government and the military processed the entire issue with great secrecy after strong public criticism of the earlier disclosure that Gen Raheel would be joining the alliance.

Additional troops deployment

The Wall Street Journal quoting Pakistani officials had earlier reported: “Under pressure from Riyadh, close ally Pakistan will provide a separate force of some 5,000 men to Saudi Arabia to help guard its vulnerable south, close to the border with Yemen.”

The report further said that the troops “to be dispatched will be an operational deployment, aimed at protecting installations against terrorism and repelling any incursion into Saudi Arabia”.

The deployment, it is said, would be in addition to any commitments that Pakistan could make for the alliance which Saudi Arabia is building up for ‘fighting terrorism’.

Pakistan already has 1,180 troops in Saudi Arabia under a 1982 bilateral agreement. The deployed troops are mostly serving there in training and advisory capacity.

The army says Saudi Arabia has so far not formally requested for additional troops deployment.

“Formal” request “for troops has not been yet received”, ISPR Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told Dawn. “If (additional) troops are sent they will not operate outside KSA,” he added.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia soon after assuming the command, Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had assured the kingdom’s leadership of continued commitment to security and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia had after the start of offensive against Houthi militia in Yemen asked Pakistan for troops deployment. However, due to domestic pressure the government did not then commit any troops for Yemen war. The Saudi request was then politely declined on the pretext of military’s extensive involvement in Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

Any deployment, if it happens, would test a 2015 parliamentary resolution that asked the government to “maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict”. The resolution adopted after a five-day joint parliamentary session had at the same time stated that Pakistan should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Saudi Arabia to protect the latter’s territorial integrity.

A source told Dawn that discussions on additional troops deployment were at an advanced stage between the two countries.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2017

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Comments (50) Closed



Ali Apr 22, 2017 02:57pm

Additional troops should be send to saudi, no.harm.in it....good step from.government

Ths Apr 22, 2017 03:07pm

Pakistan troops would used in ground attack on poor Yemen !

Ths Apr 22, 2017 03:09pm

Any democratic country would first question the Saudi led war against poor Yemen before even considering joining "

satt Apr 22, 2017 03:15pm

But why would Saudi Arabia request Pakistan for additional troops deployment.

Alba Apr 22, 2017 03:20pm

This is all in the planing stages. Pakistan's military would never be sent unless the KSA was being invaded - which is unlikely.

Rohail Apr 22, 2017 03:21pm

Okay but when they will ask are you going to say no? You will never.

Nahrad Muni Apr 22, 2017 03:47pm

70 years have been ruined by getting involved in other countries' agendas. Still have not learnt anything.. sad..

M. AsGhar Apr 22, 2017 04:18pm

This sectorial defence alliance has to end up like the useless proverbial Arab Leauge. For the security and peace in the region, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey have to work together.

abubakar Apr 22, 2017 04:27pm

Not Good... Pakistan Should Keep it's interest first.

Goga NALAIK Apr 22, 2017 04:44pm

Saudis are surely draging us into their war on Yemen.

Sectarian conflicts in Pakistan will be amplified... Unfortunately more destruction in perspective.

MSAlvi Apr 22, 2017 04:51pm

Pakistan should keep aloof from conflicts in middle east.

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Apr 22, 2017 05:03pm

"A Source told DAWN that discussions on additional troops deployment were at an advanced stage between the two countries." Are we talking about the 5000 Army Personnel as mentioned by the Wall Street Journal? The unfortunate fate of Pakistani Nation of involvement in the Middle East where there is nothing except death and destruction.

Sara Apr 22, 2017 05:12pm

Pakistan will protect and fight for the holy land. Our brave soldiers will surely bring an end to Syrian and Yemen conflicts

The_Truth Apr 22, 2017 05:14pm

So Pakistani Army is going to help Saudi Arabia to get rid of terrorists? But why haven't they helped Pakistan to get rid of all the terrorists. There are still blasts happening in the country. 5 to 6 suicidal blasts has happened this year itself. What

Prateik Apr 22, 2017 05:27pm

Saudi Arabia is unable to win its war in Yemen. It may request Pakistan to deploy troops against Houthies.

ahaq Apr 22, 2017 05:31pm

Wrong move by Pakistan. Saudi already pays trillions to US etc. The disadvantages are more than advantages for Pakistan

Ths Apr 22, 2017 05:31pm

@Prateik Pakistan will do every thing to protect Saudi Arabia

Babar Apr 22, 2017 05:32pm

@Sara the wisdom you have!!!

M.Saeed Apr 22, 2017 05:39pm

@Ths : Better study the history of Yemen conflict.

ahaq Apr 22, 2017 05:44pm

@Sara Dreaming. Those conflicts are more complicated that need political and not a military solution. Pakistan first

Jamil Soomro, NEW YORK CITY Apr 22, 2017 05:58pm

@Sara Which country has threatened to bomb the Holy Sites? This is not a religious war.This is a political war.People of Pakistan don't even have proper electricity due to load shedding they can't even get a good night's sleep.Do you want them to lose "extra"sleep worrying about the Middle East?

alI Apr 22, 2017 06:00pm

@Sara The brave Pakistani troops should concentrate on the conflicts at home rather than trying to end conflicts abroad.

alI Apr 22, 2017 06:15pm

@Ths Why? Has Saudi Arabia done anything to protect Pakistan? Why is the blood of Pakistan's sons so cheap that it can be sacrificed for the interests of an oppressive regime?

mansha sherazi Apr 22, 2017 06:24pm

Pakistan should not hesitate to sending in even 50,000 troops, we are Muslim and it is our binding obligation to protecting every nook and corner of the Holy Land of KSA.

Dawn Apr 22, 2017 06:27pm

The request is on the way surely.

Truth Apr 22, 2017 06:39pm

NS using State of Pakistan assets for his personal relationships with ruling families of GCC. This may lead to unnecessary involvement of Pakistan in conflicts of the Middle East! As a minimum, such critical decisions should never be taken at PM personal discretion. At least a parliament debate is warranted, as in any other truly democratic country.

XYZ Apr 22, 2017 06:41pm

@Sara Dude please do not talk non-sense and do not get involved in messy Middle East conflicts.

Muhammad Apr 22, 2017 06:42pm

@Sara Innocent people like you can be easily fooled in the name of religion for your information the conflicts in the Middle East are political not religious because all middle Eastern countries except Israel are Muslim therefore no question of harm is arises to holy sites secondly this alliance is not formed against Israel last but not least half of Middle Eastern population is for the alliance and half of the Middle Eastern population is kept out of this alliance then how come you can expect any good from it except more division, more conflicts in the region therefore it is in favor of Pakistan to keep away of such alliances moreover fate of monarchies in the region is also not known whether they will survive another decade or not

Sohail Gem Wazir Apr 22, 2017 07:00pm

Pakistani govt shouldn't hesitate while sending troops to KSA to defend the two Grand Mosques. It's the duty of all Muslims irrespective of their sects and nationality.

Fahim Khan Apr 22, 2017 07:02pm

Saudis keep chopping our heads and there are thousands innocents in their jails and thousands working without Salary and worst human conditions....wake up!

Optimistic PK Apr 22, 2017 07:11pm

The Iranians should feel safer if a Pakistani General is heading a coalition. Otherewise a General from other region could create more problems for Iran.

Faisal Apr 22, 2017 07:12pm

@Fahim Khan Saudia has Islamic laws, a country where even royals are punished for wrong doing

majid Apr 22, 2017 07:14pm

@alI beautifully elaborated

saber Apr 22, 2017 07:22pm

It mean, soon Saudi will request deployment of Pakistani forces.

Syed zafar kazmi U.s.a Apr 22, 2017 07:38pm

@Faisal" Saudia has Islamic laws, a country where even royals are punished for wrong doing" You have all the potential for a great fiction writer.

RoHail Apr 22, 2017 07:42pm

As a test case, Pakistan should request to put just 500-1000 coalition forces at Kashmir and Afghan borders. Let's see how effective this alliance is for Pakistan if needed.

Syed zafar kazmi U.s.a Apr 22, 2017 07:50pm

@Dawn "The request is on the way". And surely it will. be obliged as Pakistani leadership values more its personal interest than nation's.

A R Apr 22, 2017 07:50pm

@Faisal Right, I had a friend who got accident coz of Local person slammed his car on highway, entire family died and nothing happened to that local, still flying on highways

Syed zafar kazmi U.s.a Apr 22, 2017 08:13pm

@RoHail Great idea. That is the litmus test.

Muhammad Apr 22, 2017 08:22pm

@Faisal "Saudia has Islamic laws, a country where even royals are punished for wrong doing" depriving common people of their basic human rights is not Islamic my dear always keep in mind the sanctity of Islam before commenting in favor of any Monarch

Masood Apr 22, 2017 08:37pm

Time will prove that, it is a right decision!

Logic Apr 22, 2017 08:40pm

We are very good in protecting others whilst our own house is in mess. Terrorists can do what ever they want.

Ash20 Apr 22, 2017 08:41pm

Pakistani soldiers will be used for all the activities of these forces that is one reason Sharif was chosen. Pakistan will bring all kinds of terrorists to its door by these actions.

Samih khan Apr 22, 2017 08:47pm

@Syed zafar kazmi U.s.a
you must be joking. The Royals in Saudi Arabia are untouchables and above the laws, unless there is a family feud.

Zeeshandxb Apr 22, 2017 09:40pm

There is still time to back off pakistan govt. We have had lot of issues in the past. It is my request to let go of these alliances and focus on growth of people. Enough of mercenary in others war

AKB Apr 23, 2017 05:48am

There is no harm in sending troops to Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country because some hidden hands are trying hard to destabilize ME and Pakistan must play a role to save brother Muslim countries from destruction.

Ali Apr 23, 2017 08:30am

Dummy Alliance against Terrorism.Hidden agenda of this alliance is totally different,Let see time will prove.

Sajjad kamran Apr 23, 2017 08:35am

Charity begins at home.

Please look at your home first.

Faisal Apr 23, 2017 10:20am

@RoHail we need forces on Iran border

Concerned Apr 23, 2017 01:22pm

Then you can offer by yourself... Off course you can charge them.