rethinking red lines
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The direction set at the Muslim summit in Saudi Arabia last week has left Pakistan to seriously contemplate its participation in the 39-state Islamic military alliance so as to minimize the negative ramifications on its ties with Iran.

Government sources are now insisting that until TORs of the military alliance are not decided, Pakistan would not join it officially. Suspicions regarding the objective and nature of the alliance have come to the fore after the recently-concluded Riyadh Summit.  Pakistan is likely to take up the matter in the Defense Ministers Conference to be held in a few weeks from now. It will broach upon the fact that it should only be asked to fight terrorism, any deviation would lead to rifts between Muslims, something which Pakistan cannot be a party to.

The government has previously categorically asserted that it would not a part of a sectarian war. Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said on the floor of the House that Pakistan would not be part of a a sectarian war.

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“What we need to understand is that the Terms of Reference (TORs) of the alliance are yet to be finalized. The defense ministers of the participating countries will meet and discuss the modalities of the coalition. We must wait until we have all the information to comment on its outcome. We shouldn’t indulge in speculations,” Zakaria

The Foreign Office Spokesman also commented on the matter. “What we need to understand is that the Terms of Reference (TORs) of the alliance are yet to be finalized. The defense ministers of the participating countries will meet and discuss the modalities of the coalition. We must wait until we have all the information to comment on its outcome. We shouldn’t indulge in speculations,” Zakaria clarified at the last weekly briefing.

The government has been criticized by its main opponent, the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf on a seemingly partial policy instead of a neutral one.

It submitted in April, a resolution in the National Assembly Secretariat against Pakistan’s decision to join Saudi-led 41-nation Islamic military alliance and appointment of General  Raheel Sharif as its head.

The resolution made Article 40 of the Constitution as the base for the resolution which states the following:

“The State shall endeavor to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, … and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.”

“Iran should have been a part of the Islamic military alliance and the differences between Muslim countries must be bridged, not widened,” said Imran Khan

Earlier the PTI objected to the government allowing NOC to General Raheel to lead the alliance.

“We strongly oppose this decision and will soon raise the issue in the parliament,” Fawad Chaudhary said referring to the NOC given to General Raheel earlier this year.

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Pakistan has a lot to lose

IMAFT is seen heavily against Iran and Saudi Arabia is increasingly now being seen as playing a lead role in the surge against it. This puts Pakistan in a precarious situation since not only is it part of the alliance but also its decorated war hero, General Raheel Sharif is commanding it with the Government of Pakistan approval.

It would not be wrong to realize that the IMAFT is heavily against Iran and Saudi Arabia will play a lead role in the surge against it.

Iran has expressed its serious concerns about Pakistan joining the alliance, but Pakistan has tried to address its fears. It was reported that General Raheel accepted the offer to command the alliance on the condition that he would act as a mediator between the two bastions of Islamic power. Much to the relief of Iran and rightly so, Pakistan did not become a party to the war in Yemen which is sectarian in nature.

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Rumors are making rounds that General Raheel is mulling over resigning from the coveted position over the fact that the alliance is being tipped as anti-Iran in all forms and manifestations.

Rumors are making rounds that General Raheel is mulling over resigning from the coveted position over the fact that the alliance is being tipped as anti-Iran in all forms and manifestations. Analysts feel that if this actually happens, Pakistan can possibly avert the tag of fighting a “Sunni War”. It must be remembered that a possible troop commitment may go on to affect an otherwise disciplined Pakistani army. The armed forces have been free from sectarian squabbles and people from all sects, ethnicities, and religions are serving the country. However, a probable fight against the bastion of Shia Islam will create fissures, which would be a dent for Pakistan

Pakistan, it must be stressed does not have the luxury to takes sides in the ever-simmering ties between the GCC countries and Iran. Efforts are well underway to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran on part of Pakistan.

Pakistan, it must be stressed does not have the luxury to takes sides in the ever-simmering ties between the GCC countries and Iran. Efforts are well underway to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran on part of Pakistan.

Well-placed sources say that COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa is likely to visit Tehran to discuss the matter with the Iranian leadership. The army chief besides addressing Iranian concerns regarding the alliance, General Bajwa would restate Pakistan’s desire to act as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Pakistan, with a predisposition for sectarianism, can ill-afford to do anything other than deft diplomacy .The first thing is to convince Iran that Pakistan will not fight a sectarian war on behalf of the alliance, something which looks rather difficult. Headquartered in Saudi Arabia, the alliance has been given a heavily sectarian undertone by the categorical labeling of Iran as a fulcrum of terrorism by President Donald Trump.

“But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three — safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran,” he said.

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“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” he added.

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve,” he stressed.

This gave a direction to the Alliance, a course which Pakistan cannot afford to be a party of given Pakistan’s tenuous and explosive sectarian composition.

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