The need for a 34 Nation Alliance led by Saudi Arabia was in large part influenced by the growing isolation the Kingdom has felt over the last few years. The Saudi forces launched a war against Yemen along its southern border, while its air force is busy thwarting the threat of the Islamic State in Syria, which has claimed attacks within Saudi soil. The Kingdom has also felt wary of the growing influence of Iran in the region most significantly in the aftermath of its war in Yemen and the Iran nuclear deal with world powers that led to a lifting of sanctions on the country.

In an attempt to challenge these multi-pronged threats, the Kingdom of KSA announced the formation of a 34 Nation alliance ‘to fight terrorism, to share information, train, equip and provide forces if necessary for the fight against Islamic State militants,’ according to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

And this presents a set of problems to Pakistan that has so far been involved in this alliance and has also provided its troops for ‘The North Thunder’ military drills that ‘brought together armed forces from 20 Arab and Islamic countries.’

The first problem is the role of this 34 nation alliance?

If we go by the Saudi explanation of the alliance being responsible to fight ‘terrorism’, might one ask who will define terrorism for this 34 nation alliance? The Saudi’s?

And if the Saudi’s are to explain to us the meaning of terrorism then are we to assume that this menace of terrorism will mainly entail curbing Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East? Will the 34 Nation alliance target the Houthi’s in Yemen, Bashar ul Assad in Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah and other such groups?

And if that is the case, are we then to assume that this will be a 34 Nation Sunni Alliance against what it deems to be against their interests even if it does not legitimately qualify as terrorism?

Because if the hypothesis above is true, it becomes problematic from the outset for Pakistan to be a part of this 34 Nation Alliance.

Because, in that case the 34 Nation Alliance no longer remains to be a Muslim alliance but rather a Sunni alliance to protect the interests of Saudi Arabia led by a 30 year old commander, whose credentials to lead the 34 Nation Alliance are rather questionable.

And to be a part of this alliance for Pakistan would present more problems for us than solutions since we are already fighting militancy and terrorism within Pakistan under operation Zarb-e-Azb and cannot afford to be part of an alliance that fuels sectarian conflict in the region.

So far Pakistan has played its cards well, and remains the only country in the region that has not been party to a sectarian conflict. Add to that Pakistan’s recent successes against insurgent groups and militants in the form of Tehrik-e-Taliban and other similar groups and Pakistan automatically has an upper hand over the rest of the countries part of this 34 nation alliance, in terms of military experience and combating terrorism.

This presents an opportunity for Pakistan to lead this alliance and reach out to countries not included in it. If there has to be a Muslim alliance then all stakeholders must be a part of it and the Muslim world can no longer afford to further fuel sectarian conflict in the region. A Saudi made, Saudi led, Saudi financed coalition of mercenaries is hardly an ideal solution for the woes of the Muslim world.

With the Kingdom’s economy struggling amidst the global oil slump and a $100 billion budget deficit incurred only last year, will it be possible for Saudi Arabia to bear the finances for the maintenance and deployment of this alliance?

Pakistan must define its terms with Saudi Arabia on being part of this alliance and it must do so fast. In the absence of clearly defined terms, Pakistan cannot afford to be a part of an army of mercenaries that fuel sectarian conflict in the region and carves up the Muslim world further into discord and violence.