Raheel Sharif leads Saudi military alliance on two-day Pakistan visit

Former army chief Raheel Sharif calls on Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ in Rawalpindi on Monday. (ISPR)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Raheel Sharif leads Saudi military alliance on two-day Pakistan visit

  • Meets army chief General Bajwa, discusses regional peace and stability
  • Aides deny visit has anything to do with upcoming tour of Saudi crown prince

ISLAMABAD: General Raheel Sharif, former Pakistan army chief and head of a Saudi-led, 41-country counterterrorism alliance, is on a two-day visit to Pakistan to meet senior military and civilians leaders, his aides said on Monday.
The media wing of the Pakistan army said Sharif called on Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed “regional peace and stability.” No further details of the meeting were shared in the statement. 
In 2015, Saudi state news agency SPA said a new Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition would be established, and based out of Riyadh, it would “coordinate and support military operations” against terrorism. Sharif was formally appointed to head the alliance in January 2017.
Local media reported on Sunday night that Sharif would hold key meetings with top leaders while in Pakistan, including Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoood Qureshi, Army Chief Bajwa and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat.
The Pakistani foreign office could not be reached for comment on the agenda of Sharif’s meetings. 
But a senior foreign office official confirmed that a delegation of the coalition was in Islamabad for talks with top military and political leaders. He declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media on the record.
Defense analyst and close aide to Sharif, retired Lt. Gen. Amjad Shuaib, also confirmed that Sharif was leading a delegation for talks in Pakistan.
“The delegation of the Islamic Military Coalition led by General Raheel will interact with parliamentarians to address their concerns and questions about the Yemen conflict, besides having meetings with top civilian and military leadership,” Shuaib said.
Sharif’s appointment as the leader of the Saudi-led military alliance last year had sparked debate over what impact the move would have on Pakistan’s foreign policy, and particularly how it would affect a unanimous parliamentary resolution on Yemen calling for “neutrality in the conflict.”
Then defense minister Khurram Dastagir had informed Senate that the alliance would not take part in “unrelated military operations.”
During a visit of a Pakistani Senate delegation to the Islamic coalition’s headquarters in the Saudi capital of Riyadh last year, Sharif was reported by the Senate Secretariat to have said: “The Islamic military coalition was not formed to take action against any country, nation or sect. The primary objective of this institution is to counter terrorism and eliminate it.”
Sharif aide Shuaib also said the visiting delegation would seek “Pakistan’s support in intelligence sharing on terrorism, training of the coalition’s troops and purchase of arms and ammunition from Pakistan.”
Another close Sharif aide, who declined to be named, said the delegation would not be discussing security or other arrangements related to the upcoming visit of crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman later in February.
“Raheel Sharif’s visit has nothing to do with the crown prince and his visit,” the aide said. “That is not at all in the mandate of the military coalition’s work.”


UAE wins 2019 Ramadan Year of Tolerance football cup in Islamabad

Updated 23 min 21 sec ago
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UAE wins 2019 Ramadan Year of Tolerance football cup in Islamabad

  • KSA, Egypt, Sudan, UAE, Nigeria, Kuwait & Arabs from two other nations played
  • KSA won third place match against Egypt on Saturday night

ISLAMABAD: The winning streak of the Emiratis that survived the ten day Year of Tolerance Football Championship of Ramadan 2019 came to a fruitful end early Sunday morning as the UAE team won against its opponent 1-0 taking the big trophy.
Initiative of UAE Ambassador Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Al Zaabi who revived the spirit of football organizing the tournament last year under the title ‘Year of Zayed’ is aimed at rekindling relations between the Arab diplomats stationed in Islamabad.
“This kind of activity brings all Arabs, all Islamic countries, and all (Middle East) embassies together”, Al Zaabi told Arab News, as his team lifted the winning cup.
The Emirati envoy pledged to do more toward what he called a successful “sports diplomacy”.
The game was suspended back in 2008 during Pakistan’s troubled era plagued by terrorism. But in 2018 UAE emabssy which has indulged in several philanthropic activities took steps to connect with other Arab nations through football, a game commonly played in the Middle East.
Arab News shows in this video report, its second coverage of the tournament this month, the excitement of participants, players, and a select crowd of Arabs and Pakistanis enjoying the football in cricket crazy Pakistan.