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Supreme Confusion

by Newsweek Pakistan

Ishara S. Kodikara—AFP

Who is Saudi Arabia planning to target with its 39-nation army?

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has opposed Islamabad’s “no-objection” to the appointment of former Pakistan Army chief General (retd.) Raheel Sharif as the supreme commander of a multi-state, 39-nation army being raised by Saudi Arabia to tackle the ongoing Yemen conflict in its neighborhood. The opposition party says Pakistan’s laws forbid Sharif from taking up any job for at least two years after retirement and, since Parliament had opposed the appointment, any approval granted should be brought before Parliament. A spokesperson added: “The military alliance of Muslim states is apparently being formed against Iran and, therefore, the appointment of Pakistan’s former Army chief as its commander would send a negative message that Pakistan is also against Iran.”

There are institutional complications in the Saudi offer. The 39 states willing to form an army are all members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of which the presumed adversary is also a member. If the enemy state is even implied, it should first be expelled from the OIC, after which the new military should be institutionalized like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the basis of a treaty defining the conditions under which the multi-state army would be mobilized. Each member state of this new organization should thereafter join on the basis of national consensus to make it effective.

The OIC was set up by Muslim states in 1969 on the basis of a collective will. It is fundamentally a body of “economic cooperation” but is subliminally defined as a response to some unnamed common global enemy. Some of its resolutions in the past have even targeted Israel. Still, the OIC mission statement remains vague: “To safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony.” The setting up of an Army under Saudi tutelage changes the scenario altogether. And Pakistan will find it difficult to choose sides in an intra-Islamic conflict.

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