Former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif has left for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to head a 41-nation military alliance, media reports said, quoting Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday.
The reports claimed that Asif said the former chief of army staff was granted approval to serve as head of the alliance for three years.
The armed coalition was initially proposed as a platform for security cooperation among Muslim countries, and included provisions for training, equipment and troops, and the involvement of religious scholars for devising a counter-terrorism narrative.
Since news of the alliance first surfaced, there have been concerns about its nature and how it may affect a pre-existing parliamentary resolution on Yemen passed unanimously by lawmakers calling for “neutrality in the conflict” in 2015.
Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif has time and again reassured the nation that Pakistan’s stance on Yemen would not suffer due to this new-found coalition.
In the latest of these reassurances, on April 13, Asif told the National Assembly:”We will stick to our prerogative when it comes to Yemen, and the agreement we have will remain binding.”
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Shireen Mazari, during a National Assembly session, told lawmakers that a military alliance cannot be a solution to terrorism.
The PTI submitted an adjournment motion in the house to discuss Pakistan’s membership of the 41-nation Saudi military alliance, saying that in light of a unanimous resolution okayed by lawmakers on Yemen calling for “neutrality in the conflict” in 2015, Pakistan must take certain steps before determining its position on the matter.
The PTI’s chief whip in the NA urged the government to determine the nature of the alliance, make the Terms of Reference of the alliance clear and explain why the alliance was set up.
“A similar alliance was set up for Syria but nothing came of it,” Mazari said.
“A military alliance is not a solution to terrorism… Even the Saffron minister believes that [retired] Gen Raheel should not have accepted a position [as the head of the alliance],” she added.
“There are at least 10 militaries present in the alliance who are also a part of a Saudi alliance against Yemen,” Mazari cautioned.
“There should have been a joint parliamentary session where the matter was discussed properly, how can a major decision like this be taken without keeping the parliament in the loop,” Mazari added.
PTI’s Asad Umer said, “The matter is not of Raheel Sharif’s appointment, the question is if we should be part of the alliance or not.”
Earlier this week in a meeting at the GHQ, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa assured Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost that bilateral ties would remain unaffected.
Extraordinary importance was attached to the meeting by diplomatic circles because it was the second between the two in around six weeks, a rare happening in Pakistan-Iran relations given the mutual mistrust.
“Pakistan greatly values historic Pak-Iran relationship and the same shall continue based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s interests,” Gen Bajwa told Amb Honardoost.