Sunday October 01, 2023

Towards stability

April 28, 2017

Even though sixteen years have passed since 9/11, the war on terror continues to pose a problem for the world. The international community is still countering terrorism in different forms. The latest initiative to combat Isis is the formation of the Islamic Military Alliance by Saudi Arabia. All leading Muslim countries, except Iran, Iraq and Syria have joined the alliance.

The appointment of Gen (r) Raheel Sharif to lead the 41-nation Islamic Military Alliance is a matter of great honour and pride for Pakistan. This is because of the country’s emotional attachment towards the cause of Muslim unity. Even before independence, Muslims of the Subcontinent had managed to run the Caliphate Movement in support of Turkey. On March 23 1940, apart from the Pakistan Resolution, a resolution to support the Palestinian cause was also passed.

During the six-day Arab-Israel war, Pakistani pilots assisted the Arabs against Israeli aircrafts. People affected by war in Afghanistan and Bosnia were given refuge in Pakistan. The Central Asian Muslim states consider Pakistan to be the reason for their independence from the USSR. While Pakistan has been called Saudi Arabia’s closest Muslim ally, international community also labels Pakistan as the most pro-Iran country in the world.

The purpose of this background information is to emphasise that Pakistan enjoys very close bilateral relations with Muslim countries and it is not possible for the people of Pakistan to keep themselves aloof from the ongoing developments in the Muslim world. When the issue of sending the Pakistan Army to Saudi Arabia arose, I had expressed the same views – that due to Pakistan’s unique geographical position on the world map and our emotional attachment towards Muslim countries, we must support Saudi Arabia by sending our troops to maintain regional peace.

It is also important to mention the remarkable role of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in maintaining the resolve towards Muslim unity. He held the historical Lahore summit in 1974 where heads of all Muslim countries participated to show their commitment towards Muslim unity. The summit made Muslim countries aware of their worth and wealth, especially their oil resources. The current military alliance – if Iran joins it – could also fulfil Bhutto’s dream of establishing a strong Muslim bloc for combating common enemies. It is reported that Gen (r) Raheel Sharif wants to include Iran in this highly important alliance and we hope that Iran will review its decision if the Pakistani general sends an invitation.

Gen (r) Raheel Sharif became the first Pakistani general to retire on time. During his years of service, Operation Zarb-e-Azb was conducted in North Waziristan, practical support for the National Action Plan in response to the horrific attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar was begun, military courts were established to ensure speedy justice, Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav was arrested, the Karachi Operation took place, a special military unit to secure CPEC project was initiated and the Gwadar Port was inaugurated. The people residing in Muslim countries are very hopeful that he will ensure peace in the whole region.

Relations between Iran and Pakistan are friendly. Iran was the first country to recognise the sovereign status of Pakistan. Both countries are founding members of the Economic Cooperation Organisation. Iran supports Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue. To secure regional peace, both countries played a leading role to form the Central Treaty Organisation that is modelled after Nato.

Given the Pakistan Army’s unique position among the armies of other Muslim countries, the appointment of Gen (r) Raheel is the right choice. However, he must make first tackle the reservations regarding the military alliance in some quarters.

Contrary to the viewpoint that heading the alliance would bring the wars of other nations on to our land, I believe that it would actually end all the ongoing wars in our region. Pakistan is in a better position to address the misunderstandings between Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. Pakistan’s firm commitment to combating terrorism will remove the misconception that Pakistan supports terrorism at the international level.

Those who are dreaming of Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation will be defeated and it will be easy for Pakistan to present the Kashmir issue in a better way. Similarly, more immigration and job opportunities will be available to Pakistanis in countries that are part of the alliance. Pakistan will also explore international markets for its defence productions such as the JF-17 Thunder warplanes and Al-Khalid tanks. A military alliance with active participation of Pakistan is indeed in the best interests of the country.

Instead of making the Islamic Military Alliance controversial, we must work towards ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region.


The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani