Gen (R) Raheel Sharif as Chief of Islamic Military Alliance By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Gen (R) Raheel Sharif as Chief of Islamic Military Alliance

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

Sixteen years after 9/11, the war on terror is becoming complex day by day where the international community still seems countering terrorism in different forms and manifestations. The latest initiative is formation of Islamic Military Alliance by Saudi Arabia, in response to combat the ISIS, the most horrific terror organization. According to media reports, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) consists of 41 Muslim countries who are united to combat the ISIS and other terrorism-related threats. All leading Muslim countries, except Iran, Iraq and Syria, joined the alliance while Iran has reportedly regretted due to ideological differences with the Saudi Kingdom. The selection of our former army chief General (R) Raheel Sharif as chief of the military alliance, with a joint operations center in Riyadh, receives much more attention of some specific circles and due to this, I consider to express my views on this sensitive topic.

The appointment of Gen (R) Raheel, to lead 41-nation Islamic military alliance, in my view, must be consider a honor for Pakistan and matter of pride due to the country’s emotional attachment towards Muslim unity cause. Even before the independence, the Muslims of sub-continent had managed to run the Caliphate Movement in support of Turkey so successfully that still today, people of Pakistan are being called “Brothers” by Turkish people. On the historical day of 23rd March 1940, a resolution to support the Palestinian cause was also passed along with the Pakistan Resolution. On the occasion of 6-day Arab-Israel war, Pakistani pilots were the only ones who managed to down Israeli aircrafts. The doors for war-affectees belonging to Afghanistan and Bosnia were opened. The voice to support poor Rohingya Muslim community of Burma is raised by Pakistan. Central Asian Muslim states consider reason of their independence from the USSR is Pakistan. During the Indo-Pak conflicts, practical support offered by different Muslim countries helped to maintain economical stability. While Pakistan has been called Saudi Arabia’s closest Muslim ally, the international community also labels Pakistan as most pro-Iran country in the world.

The purpose to brief this background information is to emphasize that Pakistan enjoys very close bilateral relations with Muslim countries and it is not possible for people of Pakistan to keep themselves ignorant from the ongoing developments going on in Muslim world. On the occasion of joint parliamentary session on the issue of sending Pak Army to Saudia Arabia, I had expressed same views that due to Pakistan’s unique geographical position on world map and our emotional attachment towards Muslim countries, we must support brotherly Muslim country Saudi Arabia by sending our troops to maintain regional peace. Today, the active participation of Pakistan with Gen (R) Raheel Sharif as head of the Saudi-led alliance proved that my view point was correct.

It is also important to mention the remarkable role of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to held historical Lahore summit in 1974 when all heads of Muslim countries participated to show their commitment for Muslim unity. The summit made Muslim countries aware of the worth of their resources especially of oil. The current military alliance, if Iran joins, could also fulfill the dream of visionary Bhutto Saheb to establish strong Muslim block for combating common enemy. It is already reported that Gen (R) Sharif wants inclusion of Iran in this highly-important alliance and we must hope that Iran would review its decision, if the fresh invitation will be sent by Pakistani general, whose commitment for peace, unbiasedness and professional attitude is acknowledged by everyone.

Belonging to the family of war hero of 1971 Major Shabbir Sharif (Nishan-Haider), Gen (R) Raheel Sharif became the first Pakistani general to retire on time without seeking any extension throughout his brilliant carrier which included: Successful Zarb-e-Azab operation in North Waziristan, practical support for National Action Plan in response of horrific attack on Army Public School Peshawar, Establishing Military Courts to ensure speedy justice, arrest of terror mastermind and Indian spy Kalbhoshan Yadev, ending cross-border drone attacks, protecting both eastern and western borders, Karachi operation, developing a special military unit to secure CPEC project, and inauguration of Gwadar port. The people residing in Muslim countries are very much hopeful that utilizing his military experience earned in Pakistan, he will ensure peace in whole region.

The bilateral relations of Iran with Pakistan are historically close and friendly as compared to other member countries of Islamic Military Alliance. After the independence in August 1947, Iran was the first country to recognise the sovereign status of Pakistan. Both countries are founding members of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Iran supports Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir issue. Both countries played leading role to form the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), modelled after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to ensure regional peace. While the appointment of Gen (R) Raheel is a right choice considering the unique position of Pak Army among all Muslim armies, he must make first priority to disown the reservations shown by some segments that formation of this alliance is actually part of Saudi-led efforts in the Middle East and the Muslim world, in rivalry with Iran.

Contrary to the viewpoint that heading the alliance by a Pakistani General would bring other’s wars in our land, I believe that it would actually end all ongoing wars in our region. Pakistan is in better position to address the misunderstandings among Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries by bringing them closer. Pakistan’s firm commitment to combat terrorism would result in removing this misconception on international level that Pakistan supports terrorism. Those who are dreaming of diplomatic isolation of Pakistan would be defeated and it will be easy for Pakistan to present Kashmir issue in more brilliant way. Similarly, much more immigration and job opportunities could be availed by Pakistani people in the member countries. Positive impacts on foreign reserves and national economy could also be observed. The excellent performance by Gen (R) Raheel would ultimately result in projecting country’s positive image. Pakistan would also explore international markets for its defence productions such as JF Thunder 17 warplanes and Al-Khalid tanks. A military alliance with active participation of Pakistan is indeed in the best interest of Pakistan.

Expressing my best wishes to Gen (R) Sharif, I would like to conclude with a request that instead of making the Islamic Military alliance controversial, we must pray sincerely for the success of Gen (R) Raheel Sharif to achieve the noble cause of ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

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