Gen. Raheel Sharif-led IMCTC delegation arrives in Pakistan on first visit for talks

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Gen. Raheel Sharif-led IMCTC delegation arrives in Pakistan on first visit for talksISLAMABAD: A delegation of the Riyadh-based Islamic military coalition against terrorism, headed by former Pakistan Army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif, arrived here for the first-ever visit to the country for talks with the top Pakistani leadership on issues like counter-terrorism.

The trip by head of the 41-nation military coalition comes ahead of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's visit to Pakistan on February 17.

Saudi Arabia acquired the services of Gen. Raheel, who retired in November 2016, as head of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) in 2017. The IMCTC was cobbled together in December 2015 to combat terrorism.

A special plane carrying the delegation arrived at Nur Khan air base in the federal capital on Sunday, the Express Tribune reported.

Quoting sources, the report said, during the two-day visit, the visiting delegation is likely to hold key meetings with the civil and military leadership of the country.

The military officials are expected to meet Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoood Qureshi besides Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Zubair Mahmood Hayat.

Pakistan's former army chief Gen. Raheel, who is now the commander general of the Saudi-led military coalition, will also hold a special meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Key affairs pertaining to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's upcoming visit to Pakistan will be discussed at the meeting, the report said, quoting sources as saying.

Regional security situation and measures taken against terrorism will also be discussed in the meetings, it said.

In December last year, Gen. Raheel dismissed the notion that the military coalition was aimed against any particular country, nation or sect without any mentions.

He said this while briefing the Senate chairman, who was on an official visit to Saudi Arabia, on performance and objectives behind formation of the military alliance.

The former army chief has said the basic objective of IMCTC was to fight against the menace of terrorism until its eradication.

However, Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals and have supported opposing sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen and different political factions in Iraq and Lebanon, the report said.

During Crown Prince Salman's visit, Pakistan is likely to sign a number of investment deals, including the construction of a multi-billion-dollar oil refinery in the port city of Gwadar.

The Saudi crown prince will follow-up on agreements signed between the two countries during Prime Minister Khan's visit to the Kingdom last year.

Oil-rich Saudi Arabia agreed to provide USD 6 billion lifeline to Pakistan following the second visit of Khan.