Islamic Military Alliance yet to be formed: Asif

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  • PTI’s Dr Mazari says Saudi-led alliance seems ‘contradictory’ to Pakistan’s constitutional guidelines

Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Thursday said that the Islamic Military Alliance to fight terrorism has not yet formed as the matter was being discussed among the member states.

Making a policy statement in the National Assembly here while responding to the concerns shared by some lawmakers through an adjournment motion over the alliance formation, he made it clear that all the member states would have to be involved in the alliance in May this year following which the formal alliance might be formed.

“Terms of reference (ToRs), terms of engagements (ToEs) and contours of the alliance would be placed before the House before taking a decision to join the alliance,” he assured the lawmakers. Clarifying the situation involving former army chief’s joining of the alliance as its commander-in-chief, the minister said that Raheel Sharif might apply for no objection certificate (NoC) after the formal announcement of the alliance.

His (Raheel’s) application to lead this alliance would be processed as per rules of the Ministry of Defence, he said. Pakistan would not become a part of any conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he said. In case of any issue with the third Muslim country, Pakistan would not become a party, he added.

“Rather, we will play a mediating role in case of a conflict,” he said, assuring to follow the resolution adopted in joint session of the parliament regarding this matter. speaking on the adjournment motion, PTI leader Dr Shireen Mazari drew the attention of the House towards the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to fight terrorism. She said that her party had serious concerns over this alliance which could be divide concerns into three categories.

“The nature of the alliance is obscure as no clear terms of reference (ToRs) or parameters (of the alliance) have been shared. No country joins any alliance – least of all a military alliance, which will always include boots on the ground – without a clear understanding of what the alliance entails,” she said. In any case, terrorism cannot be fought through a multilateral military alliance – as we are seeing the chaos ensuing in Syria where multiple international actors weighed in to fight terrorism ostensibly, she said.

“But now there are cross currents where the war against the Islamic State has become less important than the US war against Syrian state (applauded by Saudi Arabia and UAE); Russia’s possible response to the US strikes against Syria; Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds who are fighting IS – etc,” she said. The PTI leader observed whether Pakistan envisages this alliance to fight state terrorism of Israel and India?

“Do we envisage the alliance to send forces to Afghanistan, or Pakistan or any EU state where terrorism is taking place? Hope the absurdity is becoming clear,” she said and added that multilateral accords can help fight terrorism if they are economic in nature to check terror financing – or politico-diplomatic but at present intra-Muslim state conflicts more severe than fighting terrorism.

Sharing concerns over the defence minister’s statements, she said that he (minister) first said that the government had given an NoC to Gen Raheel Sharif – while another minister (Abdul Qadir Baloch) stated he (Raheel) should not take up this assignment as it was controversial. But more critical it is Kh Asif’s take on the alliance that has raised serious issues, she said.

She claimed that the minister said on April 5 that it was in Pakistan’s own interest to invest in the defence of Arab states as several other countries were also showing interest in assisting them. “Questions then arise again about the nature of the alliance. So is military alliance an anti-terror or to defend the Arab states? Do we not have enough security issues at home,” she argued.

“To add to confusion, Asif’s latest statement came on the issue which suggested that GoP had not yet given an NoC to Raheel Sharif,” she said. “We need to recall that our constitution guides us on how to conduct our affairs with Muslim states especially and this military alliance seems contradictory to it,” she remarked.

The PTI leader said that the Article 40 of the 1973 Constitution, which states, inter alia, “The state shall endeavour to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries based on Islamic unity, and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.” She drew attention of the House towards the unanimous parliamentary resolution on Yemen on April 10, 2015.

“Also it was not in Pakistan’s national interest to get involved in others’ wars as its people were still suffering consequences of such involvements in the past,” she argued. In any case, “we feel a debate and discussion is needed in parliament before a government can make such a major and controversial decision committing Pakistan to an external military alliance,” she said.

“We need to evolve a parliamentary consensus before making the external commitment,” she concluded. MNAs Asad Umar, Dr Arif Alvi and Chaudhry Ghulam Sarwar also asked the government to call joint session of the parliament to debate this issue and other related matters. The lawmakers, who spoke on adjournment motion, were unanimous on their opinion that the military alliance was not a solution to terrorism.

During the speech of the minister, a lawmaker pointed out quorum in the house, compelling Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi to adjourn the house due to lack of quorum. Earlier, PTI had moved an adjournment motion with the National Assembly Secretariat, asking the government to elabourate why Pakistan had joined Saudi-led Islamic military alliance and appointment of General Raheel Sharif as its head.

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