Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir likely to attend
Alliance to decide ToRs for military coalition
ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia is all set to host the inaugural meeting of the 41-nation Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Ministers of Defense Council on November 26 under the theme of ‘Allied Against Terrorism’.
The meeting will involve the participation of Ministers of Defense of Coalition member countries and delegates from diplomatic missions and international organisations in Saudi Arabia, says an official handout issued by the Saudi government.
Though there was no official confirmation, an official source in the federal government told Pakistan Today that Pakistan, being one of the most important members of the alliance, would most probably be represented at the moot by the defence minister or any of his nominees.
“The confirmation would soon be made by the Ministry of Defence,” said the official.
Pakistan, since the formation of the alliance by Saudi Arabia, has been making all-out efforts to help mend tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.
Recently, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Iran to help allay its concerns about the possible role of the military alliance.
Pakistan had also stayed away from Yemen crisis and despite repeated requests by the Saudi government, the then army chief General Raheel Sharif did not agree to send troops to fight in Yemen. However, Pakistan has repeatedly pledged that its forces would be deployed in case of territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia or to safeguard the two grand mosques in Makkah and Madinah in case of an attack.
“I believe Pakistan must attend the inaugural moot of the military coalition, as it would decide the crucial terms of references (ToRs) for the alliance. Only the ToRs would decide the future course and scope of the alliance,” an official in the ministry of foreign affairs commented. “It would also determine if this alliance is aimed at threatening any Muslim country like Iran. Pakistan needs to play its role to ensure this alliance only fights terrorism and not against any fellow Muslim country.”
The meeting marks the official launch of the IMCTC and strengthens the cooperation and integration of member countries in the coalition.
“IMCTC is a pan-Islamic coalition of 41 countries that will coordinate and multiply their individual efforts to fight terrorism and extremism enabling them to work more effectively with other international security and peacekeeping efforts,” says the statement.
In December 2015, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the formation of an Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) to form a unified pan-Islamic front against terrorism.
The centre’s mission is to build up the member the country’s counterterrorism capacity, exchange global best practice on specific IMCTC initiatives and create coordinated and thus more impactful efforts across the four IMCTC domains: ideology, communications, counter-terrorist financing, and military.
Pakistan was amongst the initial members of the alliance when it was formed with 34 member-states. Later, seven more members were added to the club. A military exercise also took place between the member-states. General (R) Raheel Sharif, the former army chief, had been appointed the chief of the IMCTC and he was tasked to develop the blueprint and mechanism of the functioning of the force.
The alliance, however, is being projected as a sectarian Sunni countries alliance, as Iran and some of its allies have been kept at bay. However, Islamabad has been pressing that the alliance should remain neutral as Pakistan would not indulge in any conflict between two Muslim states.
According to the handout, the IMCTC is a willing coalition of 41 countries that form a pan-Islamic unified front in the global fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
Strategic vision of the alliance allow member countries of this strategic coalition, with the support of peace-loving friendly nations and international organisations, to coordinate and unite their efforts in the ideology, communications, counter-terrorism financing, and military domains in order to fight all forms of terrorism and extremism, and to effectively join other international security and peacekeeping efforts
The objectives of the alliance include strengthening the contribution of Islamic countries towards global security and peace; complementing international counterterrorism efforts; reinforce solidarity and collaboration among coalition member countries to present a unified front against terrorist organisations and their attempts to destabilise security and distort the image of Islam and Muslims; counter radical ideology in coalition member countries through strategic communication campaigns to refute the radical and extremist narrative and propaganda; and reaffirm the moderate values of Islam and its principles of peace, tolerance and compassion.
“(The alliance will) combat terrorism financing in collaboration with member countries and international CTF authorities, to promote compliance with international agreements and advance legal, regulatory, and operational frameworks; and establish strategic partnerships between member countries, supporting nations and international organisations to share counterterrorism information and expertise”.
Chiefs of Staff from Islamic countries met in Riyadh in March 2016, and affirmed “their determination to intensify efforts in fighting terrorism through joint work according to their capabilities, based on the desire of each member country to participate in operations or programmes within the IMCTC framework as per its policies and procedures, and without compromising the sovereignty of the coalition member countries.”
They also expressed the importance of activating the launch of the IMCTC during the coming meeting of the Ministers of Defense of Coalition Member Countries.