Islamic counter terrorism alliance created by Saudi Arabia met for the very first time in Riyadh on Sunday, after almost two years of its inception, where 41 Islamic countries vowed to eliminate terrorism.
Saudi crown prince, who is also defence minister, Mohammed bin Salman created the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in 2015 in response to the growing threat of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and criticism that Islamic countries were not doing enough to counter religious extremism. Opening the inaugural meeting Mohammad Bin Salman said the vision of the IMCTC is to have a collective response to terrorism and it will provide a platform to the member-countries to fight terrorism.
Former Pakistan Army Chief and military commander of the coalition General (retd) Raheel Sharif in his address tried to brush aside concerns that coalition is not against any country, sect or religion. But right after its formation objectives of coalition were termed vague, because some major Muslim countries including Iran, Iraq and Syria etc are not member of the coalition. Due to ongoing diplomatic standoff between Doha and Riyadh, Qatar also sent no one to attend the gathering. Absence of these countries raises concerns about the motives of coalition that either it will fight terror or it will be used for achieving the regional agenda. In such a scenario when Saudi Arabia openly accuses Iran for promoting terror, there are serious fears that this coalition may be used against Iran.
Considering the fact that a friendly neighborly Muslim country is not member of the coalition Pakistan should take decisions wisely. Given the animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan needs to balance relations with two very important Muslim countries. Pakistan is part of the coalition but it has sensibly made it clear that the country would neither send its army on foreign soil nor become part of any adventure that targets any other Islamic country.
Terrorism has become a global issue; most of the countries, particularly of Muslim world, are the victims of terrorism. It is a wise decision to form a platform where affected countries can form combined strategies to eliminate terrorism, but no inclusion of various important Muslim countries will keep raising concerns.