Pakistan has defended the appointment of former army chief General Raheel Sharif as head of a Saudi Arabia-led 39-nation Islamic military coalition, saying it was an administrative decision and not linked to the conflict in Yemen. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said government took the decision to let Raheel proceed to take the command after a lot consultations.
“They (Saudi Arabia) first wrote a letter to our government regarding the matter some six weeks ago, after which the government discussed the matter internally and sent a written agreement to the proposal after a week,” said Asif. Asif defended the appointment of Raheel as head of the coalition as an administrative decision and not linked to the conflict in Yemen.
The minister said the coalition was against terrorism and not any country. He said he would respond to the parliament if any question was raised by the Opposition. The defence minister, however, remained cryptic when asked what other nations will be contributing to the coalition and said the details of the coalition will only be revealed after a meeting is held in May. PML-N’s Talal Chaudhary said no decision would be taken without the parliament’s consent.
”As for the
“As for the the Parliamentary Resolution of 2015, it stated that Pakistan would play a neutral role in the Yemen conflict to ensure an early resolution, the government will stick to that stance and the alliance will be a force to fight against the militant Islamic State organisation and other terror outfits,” Chaudhary elaborated.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI)’s chief Imran Khan has criticised the decision to appoint Raheel the chief of 39-nation military force. Ali Muhammad Khan from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said the government needs to discuss the appointment and urged the former Chief of the Army Staff Raheel to explain it.
“I want to hear it from the horse’s mouth (Raheel),” Khan said. Interestingly, the former army chief has not said a word about his decision to command the new force. Pakistani leaders were initially taken aback when Saudi Arabia, without proper consultation with them, had announced in 2015 that Islamabad was also part of the new alliance.
Iran was not included in the grouping which appeared as a vague attempt to forge a Sunni Muslim alliance against Shiite Iran to curtail its influence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and rest of the Middle East. Pakistan was in an unenviable position as it has good ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia. It was also not ready to be dragged into the politics of Middle East.
Later, Pakistan 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. According to Saudi Arabia, the alliance is formed to fight ISIS and other militant outfits.