Gen. Raheel Sharif to head Islamic Military Alliance
Pakistan’s former Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif (retired) was appointed head of Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of 39 nations.
The appointment was confirmed by Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif as both the government and the Army allowed Gen. Sharif take charge of the alliance. Raheel had retired as the Pakistan army chief in November 2016 and was succeeded by General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
What is Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT)?
- IMAFT is military coalition comprising 39 nations. It was established by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 and its command centre, headquarters is based in Riyadh.
- The coalition calls for all member states to cooperate to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
- It is envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, troops and equipment, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism.
- It has been established in pursuance with objectives and principles of the charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
- Member countries of this alliance will coordinate and support military operations against terrorism in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt.
- The coalition includes countries like United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Bahrain, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia among others.
- Note: Saudi Arabia’s arch rival (for influence in the Arab world) Iran was not named as member of the IMAFT. Currently both regional powers are engaged proxy sectarian conflicts in Syria to Yemen.
What is Pakistan’s position on IMAFT?
Pakistan initially had taken aback for being part of IMAFT, after Saudi Arabia had announced Pakistan also part of the alliance. However, Pakistan later confirmed its participation in the alliance but has not committed itself to providing troops for any possible military operations.