Perhaps it has not occurred to the holier-than-thou media pundits who trashed General Raheel for something he had not done, that they owe him an apology. The fake news about his ‘appointment’ as head of the Saudi alliance had a context, but they chose to ignore it. They did not wait for an official confirmation from the Pakistani or Saudi authorities. They did not confirm it from the man himself but were quick to judge him harshly. Is it just shoddy journalism or synchronised propaganda?

Shouldn’t the source of this fake news, a man no less than our Defence Minister, apologise to General Raheel and the nation? Given Khawaja Asif’s important portfolio and the sensitivity of the matter, can he just turn around and call it an innocent mistake now? What about the unwarranted storm he unleashed in the media? What about the propaganda spins and spin-offs that his fake news triggered? Surely, this is not the end of the Get-Raheel campaign.

It is obvious that the Saudi royals would like to trap General Raheel into the matrix of their imaginary coalition, the so-called Islamic coalition that has little to show on the ground in terms of cooperation among the 39 countries listed as its members. The Saudis tried to trap him with the same bait when he was still serving as our army chief, right when he was being hailed as a national hero for his successful counter-terrorism initiatives and for his sincere selfless leadership. Trust the Saudi royals not to care about what the loss of his leadership would have meant for Pakistan.

Thank God, General Raheel preferred to serve Pakistan rather than the House of Saud at that time. His full tenure was a boon for the nation. The Saudis haven’t given up though. The recent Saudi attempt to lure General Raheel to the fairy-tale coalition shows that they still want him trapped, even after his retirement. It’s heartening that they have failed yet again. General Raheel’s three conditions for accepting the Saudi offer are very clearly a polite way of saying no.

Will Saudi Arabia include Iran in the coalition? Will it accept General Raheel as an arbitrator among Muslim countries to resolve their differences? Clearly, such stuff doesn’t fit the dark vision for the coalition in the mind of Saudi princes. In fact, the two conditions run counter to the anti-Iran thrust and the aggressive military adventurism that define it. As is obvious in the case of Yemen, the idea of any sort of mediation is the furthest thing from their royal minds.

The third condition might be the most difficult for the Saudis to meet. After all, the command of the coalition is not theirs to give. The Saudi royals and their so-called counter-terrorism coalition are mere projects of the US-led empire and its fraudulent war-on-terror. The US is directing the Saudi coalition’s war of aggression against Yemen; arming it, selecting targets that are mostly civilian and coordinating the whole sordid show from Riyadh.

So, the Saudi royals are really in no position to take the leadership from their terrorist-spawning imperial masters and hand it over, as per the third condition, to General Raheel, a man who is recognised as a counter-terrorism icon by friends and foe alike. With the inclusion of Iran, this 40-member counter-terrorism coalition under General Raheel’s command could decisively disrupt the infrastructure of terrorism in the Muslim world. And the Saudi royals and their imperial masters can’t risk that.

They are the architects, contractors and owners of this infrastructure. From Syria to Iraq, Afghanistan to Libya, together they have manufactured bands of terrorist proxies and played them as disruptive pieces of chess to achieve their hegemonic geopolitical objectives. The Saudi royals blatantly sponsor Islamic extremism around the globe. Their coalition is not about counter-terrorism. It is a tool designed to spread sectarianism and ensure its hegemony.

I can’t imagine General Raheel being associated with such a coalition in any meaningful way. He wouldn’t do it for money. That would be so out of character for the General Raheel that Pakistanis have come to respect and love. He’s too humble to do it for power and glory. He is too smart not to understand the geo-political imperatives of the Saudi coalition and his three conditions confirm it. So why did our Defence Minister decide to speak so glibly about the matter, misleading the entire nation?

It is no secret that Nawaz Sharif persistently nudged General Raheel towards his royal Saudi benefactors throughout his tenure. The decisions to stay away from the Saudi war on Yemen and not to commit troops to the so-called Islamic coalition were driven by the military leadership despite the government’s wishes to the contrary. To my mind, the fake news was aimed at nudging him a bit more. The twists and turns that the subsequent campaign is taking, are directed at eroding the moral authority that General Raheel still holds in the eyes of the public.

Whether it is the Saudi offer or the propaganda mileage that the Nawaz government would like to extract from it, the idea is to tarnish the image of General Raheel and to rewrite his role as the saviour of Pakistan. His detractors would like to convince us that he is just another power-player who would sell his soul for dollars. I won’t be surprised if they now spin the story to suggest that General Raheel was ready to serve the House of Saud but the government did not give him the permission.

The alacrity with which our media pundits pounced upon the fake news and used it as an opportunity to pluck feathers from the hat of a national hero was simply amazing. They jumped at the rumour-like news as if waiting for an opportunity to denounce General Raheel. They forgot about his pledge to work for the families of the martyrs after his retirement.

When he was in office, the government and democracy bandwagon-riders couldn’t wait to see his back. It seems that General Raheel’s brilliant legacy still haunts them even after his retirement.