The “Muslim NATO”: A step too far?

We are at it again. As the government gives its final consent and General Raheel Sharif embarks on the great journey of an unknown, comments of extreme divergence are being witnessed on the social and electronic media. With some calling his move to lead the 39-nation Coalition as the “ beginning of the end” for the already delicate Sunni-Shia equilibrium, while others giving him the title of the modern day Salahuddin Ayubi who is destined to take the Muslim Ummah out of wilderness.


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We as a nation have taken the notion, “lets agree to disagree” to a whole different level. Almost seven decades and we have not reached a consensus as to when we should celebrate Eid. So this comes as no surprise as we have once again successfully managed to divide the nation and push it into a state of limbo.

For starters, there are no holy cows here. We live in a world that thrives on the principle of “might is right”.

From Syria to Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, the list goes on, where the leaders of the free world, driven by their vested interest, have shown complete ignorance or gross incompetence that has resulted in the kind of massacre that will or should put human race to shame.

So first things first, will the newly formed Coalition bring the much-needed peace in the region engulfed with years of war? The answer is No. Will it make a difference? Maybe.

The dogged quest for perfection is futile and unrealistic; the rein of General Raheel Sharif naturally couldn’t have been perfect. But there is not an iota of doubt that the General was able to command enormous respect and love due to his sheer performance, both at a domestic and international level that few can fathom.

The devil lies in the detail. So far there is no indication of any sort of “boots on ground” phenomena by the Coalition. Though it is imperative to mention here that currently around 1600 Pakistan military personnel are stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Needless to say, we should sit tight and wait for the actual framework to unfold before passing any premature judgment. Currently, the information trickling through reveals that the primary objective of the Coalition is to facilitate the fight against terrorism and in the process provide a security blanket to the citizens of the Coalition countries with enhanced intelligence cooperation.

Surrounded by a war-torn Afghanistan, unpredictable Iran and the enemy who drives the entire propaganda bandwagon-India, Pakistan finds itself in a precarious position. It is convenient to sit on the sidelines and let the Muslim nations bomb each other to the stone age. It goes without saying that if General Raheel Sharif refuses, other contenders will be gleefully accepting the job. We have the option of either sitting on the observers’ desk or leading from the front.

The anti-Pakistan rhetoric that stretches from the domestic politics in Uttar Pradesh to the boycott of SAARC, the Modi-led BJP government is trying utmost to isolate Pakistan in every possible way. In this environment, a 39-nation Coalition headed by a famed Pakistani General is surely set to give Pakistan a soft diplomatic as well as a strategic edge that has been missing for some time now.

For years, we have rightly projected ourselves as victims of terrorism as our whole social fabric has been damaged by this war. However, we must plod on and get out of this victim mentality and counter the bull by the horns. General Raheel Sharif has had the honour of leading one of the most efficient Muslim armies and gaining substantial success both on and off the field. The acceptance of the command by the General not only gives the credibility that the Coalition longs for but will also boost Pakistan’s standing in the comity of nations. Additionally, our economy is likely to be impacted positively; it will also bring a sigh of relief to more than 2 million Pakistani diaspora living and working in the Middle East.

There is no doubt that relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have deteriorated in the recent years, however, it must be remembered that two enjoyed a relatively peaceful decade not too long ago. As recently as 1999, Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami visited the Kingdom and both the countries signed a ‘security pact’ in 2001. Even in 2007, the Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the famous picture of him holding hands with King Abdullah went viral at the time.
Therefore the doom and gloom environment painted by certain pundits was not always a case and peace between the two may not be a far-fetched option after all.

Nevertheless, if by some miracle, Mr Sharif is able to bring the ‘opposing sides’ on the negotiating table and convince the two to put a tab on the financial assistance of the hardliners on either side of the border, there might well be light at the end of the tunnel.

In a world full of have and have not’s, I would rather see the glass as half full and have General Raheel Sharif in charge of the power corridors. The battle between good and evil is here to stay and in a world where perception is more important than reality, General Raheel Sharif may well be the wild card that brings some sort of sanity in the world hell bent in shaping it otherwise.

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Rameez Mela

Rameez Mela

Author is an avid follower of International relations and politics. He has a master’s degree from Kiev and Shanghai and is currently based in the UAE. You can reach him at Rameezmela@gmail.com