ISLAMABAD – Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday that former military head Gen Raheel Sharif was not leading any army in Saudi Arabia, and that he was probably working in some advisory role.
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“The Former army chief is not commanding any force. Probably he will be working in some advisory role to draft ToRs and how to tackle extremism,” Aziz said in his long-awaited appearance on the floor of the upper house to detail the professional duties of Raheel Sharif.
The advisor claimed that the coalition in question was different from the one in Yemen adding that there were no troops in this coalition.
Sartaj Aziz faced a barrage of questions from law makers on the government’s policy to send Raheel Sharif to the hydrocarbon powerhouse in a bid to lead the military alliance.
Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani seemed visibly cautious over the matter and he pitched serious questions for Sartaj.
“How the government had deemed it okay to send a former army chief — who has knowledge of the country’s nuclear secrets — to a sensitive area without even knowing what he would be doing there?” inquired Rabbani.
Sartaj replied that Saudi Arabia had been using services of Pakistani retired military officers in the past as well and they had been calling Raheel Sharif for more than a year.
To this, Rabbani contended that those retired officers were of major or colonel level but here, it was the question of a former army chief of the country.
“He has all the knowledge of your nuclear arsenal. How can you say, this will not affect your foreign policy?” confronted the chairman.
Taking part in the discussion, Senator Farhatullah Babar questioned whether the premature announcement by Raheel Sharif to not accept any extension in without even being offered such extension was intended to assure the Saudis that he will be available for service in the military alliance.
“If it indeed was the case then a whole set of new and pertinent questions would have to be answered,” said Babar.
Awami National Party Senator Ilyas Bilour said Pakistani lawmakers would not allow any sectarian conflict in the country while asserting that ToRs against Iran would not be acceptable regarding the military alliance. He cautioned that the future generations would be in great peril, if there would ever be a sectarian conflict.
He recalled during the 1965 war with India, Pakistan’s jets landed in Tehran, as Iran extended help to Pakistan but today, Muslim countries were joining hands against Iran.
PTI’s Azam Swati strongly opposed Pakistan’s role in the Riyadh-based alliance and warned it was an attempt to put up an artificial threat to Iran to stimulate a sectarian rift.
Apart from facing tough questions over military alliance issue, Aziz also responded to a motion moved by 30 senators about the implications of the statement of chairman US Armed Services Committee in Kabul soon after his visit to Pakistan.
He contended Senator John McCain led a five-member delegation during his visit to Pakistan early this month and he held meetings with the prime minister and chief of the army staff. He said the visiting delegation was briefed about Pakistan’s initiative for the elimination of terrorism from the country and making the Pak-Afghan border more secure.
Aziz explained the delegation was impressed by the steps taken by Pakistan against the terrorists and the members also lauded Pakistan’s contribution to elimination of terrorism from the region.
He said the statement made by the chairman US Armed Services Committee was in response to the briefing by Afghanistan.