Raheel Sharif
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Political discourse remains divided on Raheel Sharif and Pakistan’s involvement in the Saudi Military Coalition. On the one hand, after last weeks acerbic comments on Raheel Sharif by different PML-N leaders; Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, has asked his party to refrain from making any controversial remarks about General Raheel Sharif, former Army Chief of Pakistan. On the other hand, Imran Khan and PTI, continue to agitate against the issue of Pakistan’s involvement in the Saudi-led military coalition.

Radio Pakistan tweeted Sunday evening “PM Nawaz Sharif takes notice of the statements against General (retd.) Raheel Sharif”.
Read more: Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary assures Parliament that Islamic military alliance not against Iran

Read more: Nasser Janjua thinks Raheel Sharif will bring unity among ‘Muslim world’

This refrain to his minister’s by the Prime Minister came after Muhammad Zubair, Sindh Governor, passed caustic remarks about Gen. Raheel Sharif saying that he’s “just another general” and “should not be made larger than life”.

Sindh Governer advised the press to be fair to him and not make him sound like an extraordinary person as it will only raise problems for him, especially now him that he is leading the Saudi alliance.

Zubair also commented:

“The credit for the Karachi operation goes 100 per cent to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif… although General (retd.) Raheel Sharif also contributed a lot towards the end.”

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique tried to distance the federal government from Zubair’s remarks soon after the Sindh governor made them.

“The statement of the Sindh governor was his own statement and not the government’s stance.”
– Khawaja Saad Rafique

Opposition to Pakistan’s involvement in Saudi Arabia

Nonetheless, there have been points raised in the parliament by opposition parties regarding Gen. Raheel Sharif’s role in leading the alliance. The issue was put up by three PTI parliamentarians, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Shireen Mazari, and Shafqat Mehmood.

Read more: Will the Muslim Military Alliance bring trouble for Pakistan & other Islamic Nations?

Imran Khan, chairman Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, has submitted a resolution against Pakistan’s decision to join Saudi-led alliance and Gen. Raheel Sharif as head of the alliance, in the National Assembly Secretariat within two days.

Asad Umar, PTI MNA, said:

“Decision has been taken following consultations between the committee members and the government will be asked to take parliament into confidence.”

In addition, he said pros and cons of this alliance should be discussed in detail and the vote of political parties should also be considered before passing the final judgment.

Previously, in April 2015, parliament resolution had urged the government to stay neutral to Riyadh’s demands to join its military campaign in Yemen, arguing that the development would damage the country’s standing and make Pakistan a “party” to the ongoing Arab conflict, said Dr. Mazari.

Read more: Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary assures Parliament that Islamic military alliance not against Iran

However, there are many who support this role as well including Ansar Abbassi, the renowned writer for the News International who has welcomed the step by saying that Pakistan is playing a stronger role in the Middle East and in Islamic nations. Zaid Hamid, Pakistan’s defense analyst, condemned the stance taken by PTI and has tweeted that this is a bigger game changer for Pakistan than CPEC.

Raheel Sharif’s role

Imam-e-Kaaba Sheikh Saleh Bin Mohammad al-Talib on Saturday praised Gen (retd) Raheel by saying that his role is pivotal in countering terrorism as the head of the Saudi-led military alliance.

While speaking to a private news channel, Imam-e-Kaaba said, “by leading the alliance the former army chief will only bring prestige to Pakistan.”

Sheikh Saleh Bin Mohammad al-Talib, commended former army chief, government and people of Pakistan for countering terrorism and achieving peace in the country. He added that Raheel Sharif’s vast experience and knowledge will play a pivotal role in countering terrorism.

The Imam-e-Kaaba said the Saudi-led alliance will only strengthen ties between the member countries and the Muslim Ummah. He added that peace in Islamic countries will resonate peace in the world.

Read more: Non-alignment of Pakistan is needed to survive the new Great Game

After last weeks US missile attack on Syria and Russian and Iranian strong words of condemnation there is a fear that the Saudi may push the military Alliance within the conflict.  Up to now, Pakistan has stayed out of the conflict maintaining a neutral stance regarding the Syrian civil war, which started from pro-democracy protests back in 2011 after the ‘Arab spring’.

 

Syria has become a major battleground for the proxy war between the regional and international powers. Pakistan has maintained a position, which, many strategists believe, is in line with Russia and Iran alliance. In general, Pakistan has always held positions that have been against regime change through foreign intervention.

However, in Syria’s case, given the strong ties Islamabad has with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and if Raheel Sharif takes over the position, there are concerns that Pakistan may have to change positions and veer closer to that of the Saudis.

Read more: Is PTI right in taking a position against Gen. Raheel Sharif

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