ISLAMABAD: Parliamentarians in the Upper House on Tuesday questioned the role of former army chief Gen (r) Raheel Sharif in the Saudi-led military alliance for which even the terms of reference (ToR) have not been finalized so far. However, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Senate that the former army chief, who was set to head the alliance, would implement the same policy as constituted by Pakistan’s parliament. “ToRs of Saudi alliance haven’t even been formed and the army has got ready,” remarked Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, adding, “Your former army chief even went to head the Saudi-led alliance.” Sartaj Aziz responded that according to the reports received, the alliance has not been allocated any operational units as of yet. In a policy statement, the advisor told the Upper House that Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of the yet-to-be-formed military alliance would not affect Pakistan’s foreign policy. “What would be the government’s reaction, if the TORs were made against Pakistan’s policy,” Rabbani asked Sartaj Aziz. The adviser replied that as per his information, the army of the Muslim countries has not been set up as yet. With a Joint Command Centre headquartered in Riyadh, the alliance includes Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen and other Muslim countries. The coalition conspicuously lacks the presence of Iran. To another agenda item, the advisor told senators that Senator John McCain led a five-member delegation during his visit to Pakistan early this month and held meetings with prime minister and chief of the army staff. He said the visiting delegation was briefed about Pakistan’s initiatives for the elimination of terrorism from the country and making Pak-Afghan border more secure. He said the delegation was impressed by the steps taken by Pakistan against terrorism. He said when the delegation visited Afghanistan, they were briefed by Afghan authorities about their reservations. He said the statement made by US armed services committee chairman was in response to briefing by Afghanistan. Senator Farhatullah Babar asked why Raheel Sharif had announced 10 months prior to his retirement that he would not be looking for an extension to his tenure as army chief. “What was the purpose of making the announcement in advance, particularly if no offers had been made to him at that point?” asked Babar, adding that whether Raheel Sharif wished to signal his availability post-retirement to Saudi Arabia and whether the announcement was made for the benefit of the Saudi leadership. The senator called for an investigation into the matter. Senator Ilyas Bilour said Pakistani lawmakers would not allow any sectarian conflict to pop up in the country, asserting that ToRs against Iran would not be acceptable. “The country will be destroyed if there is sectarian conflict,” he warned. About alleged support to some militant groups, Farhatullah Baber said that Pakistan’s Foreign Office was quick to welcome the recent UN decision to list Jamat ul Ahrar as a terrorist outfit but on the other hand has been asking China to block UN move to sanction Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) whenever such a move came up before the world body. “Because of such duality in policy, the world accuses us of running with the hare and hunting with the hound in the fight against militancy.” He called for reversal of the policy which, he said, was untenable. The senators also expressed their displeasure that the country’s foreign policy was made somewhere else while bypassing the parliament. They suggested that foreign policy should be made by the parliament. The House also discussed missing persons issue and demanded immediate end to the practice. Supporting the senators suggestion, State Minister for Interior Balighur Rehman said the government can never think it right to keep people in illegal detention. Published in Daily Times, July 19th , 2017.