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Pakistan opposition fury over ex-army chief role in Saudi-led military alliance

Published: Updated:

News confirming Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif leading the Saudi-led military alliance ‘against terrorism and extremism’ is lilely to be met with criticism from the opposition in the country, it has been revealed.

According to a news report, the confirmation to this effect was done by Defense Minister Khawaja Asif after speculations over Sharif heading the military alliance. The minister said that Saudi Arabia sent a formal request and that Sharif would be starting soon. The fomer army chief had explained in January that he only agreed to take up the job when Pakistan formally joined the alliance.

Also read: Unraveling the mystery over ‘Muslim NATO’ chief Raheel Sharif

Pakistan’s opposition parties have voiced their disapproval with any interference in the conflicts in the Middle East. In April 2015, a resolution was approved by parliament urging the government to maintain a natural stance in regards to the request from Saudi to join its military fight against the Houthis in Yemen.

Officials told The Express Tribune that Riyadh “agreed to incorporate Pakistan’s suggestions in order to make the alliance broad-based and dispel the impression about its sectarian outlook.” Gen. Sharif has already explained to Saudi authorities that he would need complete freedom to run the alliance.

Opposition voices

The initial reaction from the opposition suggests the government is going to face tough time in and outside parliament. “Pakistan cannot afford to enter into any intra-Muslim states’ power games, especially those with sectarian overtones,” said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s senior leader Shireen Mazari.

She said the government was undermining parliament’s resolution on Yemen by allowing Gen (retd) Raheel to head the Saudi alliance. “Parliament doesn’t want Pakistan getting even remotely involved in any conflict that has or could have sectarian undertones,” she added.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Secretary General Farhatullah Babar also said that the government had agreed to take the Senate into confidence about the implications of such a foreign policy decision when the news first came in January. “I hope the adviser will take the house into confidence and explain the circumstances and reasons under which this extraordinary decision has been taken,” he said.

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