Iran, the neighbouring country of Pakistan, expressed its reservation on the appointment of former Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, as head of the Saudi-led 41-nation Islamic military alliance stating that they are not satisfied with the coalition nor they accepted the same.

Iran’s state run IRNA news agency quoted Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost saying that Pakistan had contacted Iranian officials before issuing the no-objection certificate (NOC) to General Sharif to lead the Saudi alliance.

“But that does not indicate that Iran is satisfied with this decision or it has accepted the same,” the envoy said.

Honardoost said Tehran had informed Islamabad that Iran would not become part of such a military alliance, adding that neither had Iran been extended an offer to join a coalition of this sort. All important Islamic countries come together to form a coalition of peace rather than forming a controversial military alliance to resolve their issues. 

Now, this situation could badly affect the relations of the two countries and can lead to diplomacy crises in the region. The Iranian government should have been taken into confidence before joining this alliance and the gap between the two Islamic countries Saudi Arabia and Iran should have been bridged. It also clearly shows that our foreign affairs aren’t been dealt in an effective manner. 

Unfortunately, it is one of the biggest failures of Nawaz led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML’N) government because they failed to bring in full-time dedicated foreign minister (FM) despite being in power for almost four years. 

Keeping in mind the significance of Pakistan in the region vis-à-vis Iran, concerns regarding the appointment of General Raheel Sharif, Torkham border’s fencing issue with Afghanistan and emerging US-India relations, we need to appoint full-time dedicated foreign minister who could manage diplomatic handling internationally in skillful, clever and neatly manner. 

But, according to reliable sources, PM Nawaz is reluctant and afraid of choosing full-time foreign minister. That’s why he has kept this strategically important portfolio with himself and is not willing to give it to anybody, because this would help him establish his control over foreign policy makers and he could make them work right under his nose. 

However, it cannot be ruled out either that since last four decades or so, military establishment considered foreign policy and defence as its exclusive domains and they do not like the interference of political leadership in the matters especially pertaining to foreign policy. 

What we have observed and witnessed during the tenure of previous army chief, General Raheel Sharif, is that he served as the de facto foreign minister of the country. He accompanied PM Nawaz in all the important countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

Even the current Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa carried out important foreign trips to England and China on his own, giving an impression as if he is the ‘de facto’ foreign minister of Pakistan. He met Pakistan’s business community in England which is not his job. So, our advice for the Army Chief would be to divert his attention towards the security of the country and Operation Radd-ul Fasaad being carried to eliminate terrorism from the country. 

What we have observed in these four years is that the government has miserably failed in all important international assignments and diplomacy fronts. 

Firstly, when we mediated between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it was agreed between the countries that focal person from Pakistan would be designated by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan respectively. 

But nothing practically happened due to which the current crisis regarding the appointment of General Raheel arrived, because although we have a foreign advisor and a special advisor to the PM on foreign affairs in the shape of Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi, both these men, hardly have any input in the formation of foreign policy and international relations with other countries. 

Secondly, if Pakistan had a dedicated foreign minister, the US-Pakistan relations, which deteriorated after the killing of Mullah Mansour inside Pakistan by a US drone, would have been handled effectively. 

Thirdly, we had to face another crisis which originated after US Congress decision to block the sale of F-16s to Pakistan on concession as we failed to compete with Indian lobby in the US on the F-16s deal because of lack of resources. By lack of resources, I mean unlike India, which has engaged 16 lobbying firms, Pakistan has none during the PML-N’s tenure.

What we observed is that the PM along with these two foreign policy experts failed to register protest against drone strike in Pakistan with the US, which clearly shows that they are lacking behind in terms of international diplomacy. 

PM Nawaz apparently believes in running his cabinet like a feudal lord or king, that’s why he appointed close aides as foreign advisors. I believe it is the right time for him to accept that he does not have time and even the ability required to analyse and respond to the fast changing developing situation at the foreign fronts. 

The kind of negativity being spread against Pakistan today is not being replied to in the same tone and tenor. Therefore, the negativity is piling up. 

We need a devoted foreign minister as soon as possible otherwise these foreign crises would keep on haunting us.