Former Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif (Retd) has not yet formally accepted the offer to lead the 39-member Islamic Military Alliance and negotiations are still underway on three important terms: inclusion of Iran along with other Muslim countries in the alliance, said a close aide of the former military chief.
Lieutenant General Amjad Shoaib (Retd), while talking to Business Recorder said that he himself spoke to General Raheel Sharif (Retd) who contradicted the claims made by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif that a decision has been taken that General Sharif would lead the alliance after an NoC [No-objection certificate] was given by the GHQ.
He further revealed that the Saudi government will send a formal proposal to the government of Pakistan, mostly likely by March this year, and it will be the prerogative of the government of Pakistan to give the go ahead to General Sharif(Retd) or not. “I personally spoke to General Raheel Sharif. He [General Sharif] has not yet accepted the offer but negotiations are still underway”, Shoaib said, adding the former army chief has placed three important terms to be met before he will consider the offer.
The terms, he added, include that Iran and other Muslim countries like Iraq and Syria be part of the membership; secondly, he [General Sharif] would be the Commander of the forces and not under the command of anybody; and thirdly, in case of any conflict between two Muslim countries, he will act as a mediator.
Lieutenant General Amjad Shoaib Retd) further maintained that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself had welcomed the offer which was earlier made to General Raheel Sharif by the Saudi government. Civilian and military analysts on condition of strict anonymity told Business Recorder that the alliance, formally known as Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, was announced by Saudi Arabia on December 15, 2015, initially with 34 member states; however several governments included in the coalition, including Pakistan, expressed surprise at their inclusion as they were not consulted.
And more importantly they point out that at present it is unclear whether the coalition would have an army to enforce its decisions, or merely act as a diplomatic mission that may well be as ineffectual as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The coalition did not include Iran, Iraq and Syria -countries traditionally in conflict within the region.
Lieutenant General Talat Masood Retd), a senior defence analyst, said that it is not yet clear whether Pakistan and other Muslim countries would send their troops or take ground action in countries where Daesh is very active like Syria and Iraq or al Qaeda in Yemen.
He said that the position offered to General Sharif is itself a controversial one, since important countries of the regions including Iran, Iraq and Syria are not part of the coalition.
“It is strange that the coalition reportedly claims to be set up to fight Daesh and al Qaeda, especially in Iraq and Syria but these countries are not even included in the coalition…it is tantamount to fighting against another Muslim country, which is in conflict with the 12-point resolution passed by the joint sitting of parliament held from April 6 to 10, 2015”, he added.
The resolution passed by parliament underscored: “the need for continued efforts by the government of Pakistan to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis, while promoting the unity of Muslim Ummah, in co-operation with the leaders of other Muslim countries; [It] desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis”.
In such situation, he added that it was up to the government to decide whether accepting any such offer will benefit the country’s interest or go against our own interests. Lieutenant Colonel Inam-ur-Rahim (Retd), a retired military lawyer and legal expert, pointed out that it is mandatory for a retired military official to get an NoC from GHQ prior to accepting any job abroad or a foreign funded job within the country, within two years of retirement.
“If General Reheel Sharif is going to accept the offer in his personal capacity, it would be deemed illegal, as it requires a formal NoC from the GHQ and the military has so far not issued any such statement”, he added. He said that after obtaining NoC from the GHQ, it is the prerogative of the Ministry of Defence to allow any military official to accept the offer.
Informed sources told Business Recorder on condition of anonymity that getting a NoC from the GHQ is unlikely to pose a problem. There is a long history of protecting retired officials and particularly retired chiefs of army staff, they stated adding that the civilian government too is susceptible to pressure from the establishment and is not likely to refuse if the army puts pressure in this regard. The objective of the alliance was stated as follows: “to protect the Muslim countries from all terrorist groups and terrorist organisations irrespective of their sect and name in countries including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan”.