In December 2015, the creation of an Islamic Military Alliance, consisting of more than 30 member states, was announced by Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabias minister of defence.
Some months later, rumours were rife that Gen Raheel Sharif, Pakistans former military chief, had been offered the job of heading this coalition. His appointment has been reported in some media outlets, although it has not been officially confirmed.
Perhaps the most important question surrounding the organisation is what is it intended to do? We have two historical alliances to draw parallels from to seek an answer: Nato and the Warsaw Pact.
Nato is an alliance that was originally intended to protect Europe from Russian expansionism. The Warsaw Pact was a pact of the Soviet Union and its allies against Nato. Both had identifiable opponents in other countries. The Islamic Military Alliance is designed to tackle extremism, but terrorists are most often the “enemy within”. How can other countries help fight the enemy within?
As I understand it, at least in the beginning, no real military action is envisaged for an organisation that has been described in some circles as the “Muslim Nato”. It will essentially be focusing on non-kinetic means to combat terrorism.
The focus is intended to target the funding of terrorists and cross-border movement of extremists. Both these subjects are of increasing importance.
Terrorists seem to filter through all borders and continue to find support and access to weapons.
The implications of this set of realities are numerous. Foremost is that in all countries where terrorism is rife, there are some people so disillusioned with governance that they are prepared to go to any lengths to find an alternative however ugly and inhuman that may be.
So the key item this alliance will seek to address is the increasing tide of extremism, primarily among Muslim-majority countries of the region.
That terrorism can only exist where corruption is rampant and must be dependent on the corrupt to permit the flow of illegal funds, weapons and resources is fully accepted.
Therefore, the next issue on the alliances agenda will be the eradication of corruption.
I gather that the constitution of this alliance is still being written. However, I am reliably informed that all these aspects are likely to be included. Other aspects will focus on border and inland security.
I also gather that, for the present at least, the alliance will neither seek to raise any military force of its own, nor will it seek to requisition or organise a voluntarily contributed force, like the UN does.
However, provisions for options to be exercised may well be included in the constitution.
If Gen Raheel does head this alliance, I am quite certain that it will not be long before he ensures that Shia majority countries are included in the alliance. All this seems very encouraging.
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