Pakistan’s role in counter-terrorism alliance and the appointment of Pakistan’s former army chief, Raheel Sharif, as commander of the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) has made Iran angry. In the wake of the recent attack in Egypt that claimed more than 300 lives, the importance of Islamic Military Alliance gains weight.
It’s worth recalling that Iran again was not invited, thus implying that the coalition would target Iran and its interests in the region. Iran sees it a sectarian alliance and wants Pakistan to revise its decision of leading the coalition.
While the coalition holds the potential of enormous gains for Pakistan to cash on and further strengthen its relations with member countries, it is not wise to strain relations with the neighboring country. Islamabad has already assured Tehran that it will not become a party to any such scheme that damages the Iranian interests in the region. Even the mandate of the alliance reads so.
Islamabad understands the nature of strained relations between Riyadh and Tehran Therefore while agreeing to participate in the joint operations to eradicate terrorism that is plaguing various Islamic countries, Islamabad stated that it would not use its military outside the country nor would become part of a scheme against any other Islamic nation.
Hardly a month ago, the present Army Chief visited Tehran and had positive meetings with top Iranian officials regarding enhancing bilateral relations and joint efforts to improve the security of the region. But this does not mean, then, that Pakistan has to take sides between Saudi Arab and Iran. Being an independent and sovereign state, Pakistan can become part of an alliance or group it wishes to join.
Nonetheless, Iran’s fears are not misplaced as the alliance contains only Sunni majority states. For a better outcome of the Coalition’s declared objectives Iran should have been included in it. It would have helped in vanishing the impression that the targets of this grand coalition also include Iran’s interests.
As far as Pakistan’s role is concerned, it has already been clarified that it will not use its forces or soil against any Islamic country but to curtail terrorist outfits and their activities. Raheel Sharif who is Chief of the IMCTC also rejects the impression that the alliance is sectarian and holds any sinister plans against any state. The real aim of the alliance is intelligence sharing and capacity building, anything that goes beyond this should ring alarm bells for Pakistan. Without any delay, Pakistan then needs to leave the alliance.