By Senator Rehman Malik
It was a great encouragement to see representatives from entire Muslim world together deliberating on the forum of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition’s (IMCTC) Ministers of Defence Council to counter terrorism. HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman led the meeting. All the participants agreed on formulating a strategy to deal with the menace of terrorism. The steps agreed upon by the participants to combat terrorism include: addressing it through education and knowledge, working together to bring out the correct Islamic concepts, and taking measures to bridge the gaps between the Muslim world and global community to ensure collective security and prosperity. The forum understanding the importance of media decided to use this as supporting hand to eliminate terrorism by initiating useful communication and dialogue. They affirmed to work with the media by investing in digital media platforms to counter terrorist propaganda. It surely will help in destroying the foundations of terrorism and reducing its influence and appeal to young minds. Moreover, it was also agreed upon by the participants that combating terrorism would only succeed if steps taken also include efforts to curtail terrorist financing by draining the sources of terrorist funding through a proper and efficient exchange of intelligence. The last but not the least action is to combat terrorism through military: by strengthening the military forces of the participant countries by enhancing their capabilities to ensure that terrorist organizations are weakened, dismantled, and eliminated.
The working mechanism has been announced, but a working plan has yet to be designed to implement this much needed and long-awaited initiative. The President of IMCT will ensure to follow up the strategies that will be required for adequate joint operation. The ministers decided to secure a Centre Headquarters for IMCTC in Riyadh, as it will meet the Coalition’s needs. Indeed, this is an excellent initiative considering its goals in mind. But I feel that there is a lot to be done, as there is no defined roadmap that explains working of this joint force to discharge its duties. Nor is there any word said regarding the bylaws that will run it. Also, there is silence on the nature of legal charter that will allow other countries’ armed forces to operate on the ground and with what legal authority.
There are questions that need clear answers to avoid any sort of misunderstandings. For instance; will this force act like NATO forces or need some new military operational strategy/procedures? Why should Saudi Arabia take the economic burden to maintain this force? It should be a collective responsibility to share the expenditures by whole Muslim Ummah to give the feel of joint efforts of the entire Muslim community.
Nevertheless, I feel, perhaps, it should be named Islamic Peace Army (IPA). It can be placed under OIC with its headquarters in Riyadh. It will be possible only if Prince Mohammed bin Salman takes yet another step and get all the remaining Muslim countries in this newly proposed IAP counter-terrorist force. The world is witnessing with great interest that Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, like this initiative, has introduced many unprecedented reforms in his country including recent economic changes and acting against the powerful corrupt elite in the Kingdom.
Furthermore, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is the driving force behind ‘Vision 2030’: the kingdom’s long-term economic plan to wean itself off dependence on oil. Prince Muhammad is also known for reforming his country’s ineffective bureaucracy.
Moreover, he has successfully lobbied for regulations restricting the powers of the religious police. It is great to see an entertainment authority in Saudi Arabia that has hosted comedy shows, wrestling events, and monster truck rallies. The removal of the ban on female drivers in September 2017 is a step in the right directions. He has also chipped away with Saudi Arabia’s Wali system. These all reforms look great, and we hope his vision also becomes the guiding light for the rest of the Muslim world.
The assembly of all the head of Muslim counties in Saudi Arabia, May 2017 duly addressed by President Donald Trump had provided the Muslim countries yet another opportunity to interact and to come up with a comprehensive strategy to eradicate the sufferings of Muslim Ummah. This kind of interaction with western leaders should continue to clear misconceptions about Islam.
Let me highlight here that Arab spring brought number of adverse changes in Middle East and many Muslim countries suffered and its bad effects will continue for a long time. The present effort by Saudi Arabia will help in normalising the situation in these countries. I also feel that the recent reforms introduced in Saudi Arabia will have a positive impact on the Middle East as it will bring a modern approach to governance as well as social and political structures of Arab states. The wave of modernisation will also prove helpful in deradicalising the youth. I hope that the newly formed force does not remain restricted to the Middle East but also play a constructive role in Afghanistan. Crown Prince Muhammad’s personal attention and initiatives for peace will benefit the war-torn country.
The biggest challenge for this newly formed Islamic Alliance is to defeat Daesh, which is likely to become a more lethal terrorist organization. Halting its growth should be the priority of this new coalition. Pakistan will be more than happy with its anti-terrorism experience to work for peace in this region in close collaboration with energetic Mohammed Bin Salman. Let us hope this new force plays its role in peacekeeping in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries that are prone to the attacks of extremist and terrorist organisations. These joint efforts of the Muslim world will help in reducing Islamophobia that rules supreme in the West because of toxic propaganda against Islam. Let us wish and pray for the success of this great initiative by Saudi Arabia and hope it will have a positive outcome for Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.
(The author is member of Pakistan Senate, PPP’s central leader and former Interior Minister.)