Pakistan Iran at odds over General Raheel Sharif leading Islamic Military Alliance

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Pakistan Iran at odds over General Raheel Sharif leading Islamic Military Alliance

ISLAMABAD - Former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s formal appointment as the Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition commander has left Iran fuming as Tehran asked Islamabad not to support a “sectarian” alliance, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry said Iran had contacted Pakistan to reconsider its decision of spearheading the Saudi-led military alliance.

“They insist it is a Sunni alliance against the Shias. We are struggling to convince them [Iran] that this is an anti-terrorism alliance. They [Iran] are drifting away as we get closer to Saudi Arabia,” one official told The Nation.

He said the diplomatic contacts between Pakistan and Iran were ongoing on the issue and Pakistan hoped to placate Iran in the coming days. “We have assured them that we will quit the alliance if it proves to be sectarian. So far we are planning to eliminate terrorism not any Muslim sect,” the official added.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa were in Saudi Arabia this week for talks with the top Saudi leaders on expanding the bilateral relationship.

General Bajwa had earlier visited Iran and held talks with President Hassan Rouhani. The meeting was termed “positive” by the officials on both sides.

Pakistan had allowed Raheel Sharif to command the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance of several Muslim states after a request from Riyadh. The alliance was formed by Saudi Arabia in December 2015 with its headquarters in Riyadh.

Iran had objected to the formation of the alliance fearing it was a Sunni-alliance rather than a Muslim alliance.

Pakistan had also delayed approval-to Raheel Sharif - considering Iran 's objections - for several months before finally giving a nod to the former army chief.

This month, Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost had said the Saudi Arabia-led military alliance did not have the necessary ingredients of an alliance.