Raheel Sharif in Pakistan ahead of Saudi Crown Prince’s visit

Islamabad: Former Pakistan Army Chief Raheel Sharif is in Pakistan leading a delegation of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) on its maiden visit to Pakistan. General Sharif’s visit comes days ahead of much anticipated official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman who is expected to sign the biggest ever trade and investment deals amounting to $ 20 billion with Pakistan. According to Pakistani officials and media reports, Saudi Prince is expected to arrive in Pakistan on February 16 and will stay in Islamabad overnight. General Sharif who is now the Commander-In-Chief of Saudi Arabia-lead Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), called on Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday. During the meeting, the national and international security situation as well as the counter-terrorism measures taken by the coalition were discussed. Earlier, General Sharif along with his delegation also met Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He apprised Qureshi of the measures that are being taken by the coalition in order to combat terrorism, a statement issued by the Foreign Office said. The two also talked about the importance of regional peace and stability and other matters of mutual interest. Qureshi lauded the efforts of the coalition force to establish peace and stability in the region, the statement added. On Monday, General Sharif also called on Pakistani Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa at General Headquarters. According to the army’s media cell, in the meeting matters related to regional stability and peace were discussed. The army chief also lauded the efforts by the Islamic military coalition for enduring peace. During the meeting, the national and international security situation as well as the counter-terrorism measures taken by the coalition were discussed. Former Pakistani Army Chief General Sharif was made the chief of 41-nation Islamic military coalition formed by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism in 2017. The 41-nation armed coalition is a platform for security cooperation among Muslim countries and included provisions for training, equipment and troops, and the involvement of religious scholars for devising a counter-terrorism narrative. In December last year, during the visit of a Senate delegation to the IMCTC headquarters in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, Gen Sharif had denied the impression that the military coalition that he heads was established to counter a specific country or sect. According to highly placed sources in Pakistan, General Sharif’s arrival with IMCTC delegation is quite significant ahead of Saudi Crown Prince’s visit. “He is here to ensure everything goes as scheduled and smoothly during the official visit of high level delegation led by Prince Salman.”