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.”


Arab News captures scenes set for arrival of Saudi Crown Prince in Islamabad

Updated 5 min 24 sec ago
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Arab News captures scenes set for arrival of Saudi Crown Prince in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: The federal capital, Islamabad, has been dressed up in anticipation of the Saudi prince’s arrival here on Sunday, its streets and avenues decorated with welcome banners, colored lights and the national flags of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The crown prince will be received personally by Prime Minister Imran Khan and accorded a historic red-carpet welcome along with a 21-gun salute. During the prince’s two-day visit, Pakistan is expecting to sign off on a raft of investment deals and other agreements with Saudi royals and businessmen worth over $10 billion, including the establishment of an oil refinery in the port city of Gwadar in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. Ahead of the prince’s arrival, the Arab News team traveled to several parts of Pakistan’s capital city to document the historic preparations made for the royal welcome.