Pakistan to play a 'greater role' in Saudi-led Islamic anti-terrorism coalition

The pakistani Prime Minister is said to have emphasised the need for a broad-based regional cooperation in meet the challenges violence and extremism.
Wednesday 13/02/2019
File photo Pakistan's Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. (AP)
File photo Pakistan's Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. (AP)

Pakistan is set to play a "greater role" in the Saudi-led Islamic anti-terrorism alliance launched by the kingdom in 2015, Pakistani media have reported.

The alliance, known as Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), is headed by retired Pakistani General Raheel Sharif.  It brings together militaries from all parts of the Muslim world for the purpose of countering terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda.

According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune,  General Sharif met  February 12, with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad to brief them on the progress of the alliance and to discuss with them the current regional security situation.

The pakistani Prime Minister is said to have emphasised the need for a broad-based regional cooperation in meet the challenges violence and extremism.

An official handout said "the prime minister reiterated the resolve to bring durable peace and stability to the country. He said Pakistan supports all steps for regional peace."

 Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan to play a "more proactive" role in the activities of the coalition, an official who requested anonymity told the Tribune.

“The subject is expected to be discussed during the upcoming visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan, "The source added.

Prince Mohammed will pay an official visit to Islamabad later this week. He is expected to signing a number of agreements there worth billions of dollars in investments.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the prince is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Imran Khan during the two-day visit, which begins February 16th. It will be the Crown Prince’s first visit to Pakistan since he was appointed heir to the throne in 2017.

The ministry also said that the Saudi crown prince will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including members of the royal Saudi family, ministers and leading businessmen.

Besides being the biggest buyer of Pakistani-made weapons, Saudi Arabia maintains extensive military ties with Pakistan dating back decades. These ties include joint military exercises and occasional deployment of Pakistani troops in the kingdom. During the first Gulf war, in 1991, troops from Islamabad helped secure the kingdom’s holy sites in Mecca and Madinah.

Pakistan's military plays a major role in the country, including the political realm. Since Pakistan's independence from India in 1947, the army has staged a coup on three different occasions. Many consider the position of army chief to be more important and powerful than that of the prime minister.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the kingdom’s defence minister, said at the time of the announcement of the IMCTC, that the alliance, headquartered in Riyadh, will “coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism and develop the necessary programmes and mechanisms for supporting these efforts.” He added the coalition would coordinate efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.