ISLAMABAD: Iran’s Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost on Wednesday met army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for the second time in over a month in an apparent effort by the two sides to iron out differences on Pakistan’s move to allow the former army chief to head the Saudi-led counter-terrorism alliance.
Although, a handout issued by the military’s media wing did not explicitly mention the controversy surrounding the Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism, officials familiar with the GHQ meeting confirmed that the issue was the main agenda item.
“Evolving regional security matrix and other issues of mutual interest were discussed, including measures against common threat of terrorism,” said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a statement.
It quoted the army chief as telling the Iranian envoy that “Pakistan greatly values historic Pak-Iran relationship and the same shall continue based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s interests.”
This was the second visit of Iran’s Ambassador to the GHQ. He previously met the army chief on March 4 just days before the government confirmed that former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif would soon join the Saudi-led alliance as its head.
Iran has expressed concerns over the development raising fears that this may strain ties with Pakistan.
The 41-national alliance was announced in 2015 by Saudi Arabia with an apparent aim to fight growing threat of terrorism. Countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria are not part of the grouping; something that critics believe can deepen sectarian divisions in the Muslim world.
Pakistan has all along insisted that its participation in the alliance is not against any country including Iran.
Gen Raheel is also in favour of inclusion of Iran into the fold in order to dispel the alliance’s sectarian outlook.
The terms of reference of the alliance that some dubbed “Muslim NATO” have not yet been finalized. The defence ministers of the participating countries are expected to meet soon in Riyadh to approve the alliance’s mandate and its scope.
Philippine army plans all-Muslim units amid insurgeny
By Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) April 15, 2017
The Philippine military announced plans to create all-Muslim fighting units on Saturday, with quotas from the Catholic country’s largest religious minority, as it looks to bolster efforts to tackle Islamic insurgents.
Five percent of all new applications will be allocated for Muslims under the new order, military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said in a statement, adding the eventual aim was to have a dedicated brigade or division to be deployed in the country’s troubled south.
The Philippines is battling Muslim extremist militants in lawless southern regions, some of whom have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Arevalo said the Muslim quota, which roughly reflects the proportion of the religious minority in the population, would help the army operate in areas where it has been previously viewed with suspicion by local people.
“Most of our Muslim brothers and sisters perceive the deployment of almost 100 percent Christian soldiers in their communities as invading or occupational forces,” he said, adding that fellow Muslims would be more aware of religious or cultural “sensitivities”.
The statement did not give details of the existing numbers of Muslims in the military.
The southern region of Mindanao, the ancestral homeland of the Philippines’ Muslim minority, has been locked in a separatist insurgency since the 1970s, with the conflict claiming more than 120,000 lives.
While the major rebel organisations have for years observed a ceasefire with the government as part of peace efforts, there are breakaway factions opposed to compromise and other gangs that have declared allegiance to the IS.
Earlier this week, security forces clashed with suspected Islamic militants from the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group on a popular resort island, the first attack on a key Philippine tourist destination in recent years.
Tags: fight growing threat of terrorism, Iran, Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost, Iraq, Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism, Muslim NATO, Pakistan, Philippine army plans all-Muslim units amid insurgeny, Philippines, Saudi Arabaia, Syria