ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday that General (retd) Raheel Sharif has not been offered any post by Saudi Arabia pertaining to a 39-nation Islamic coalition force; Defense Minister Khawaja Asif also added that the former army chief had not requested for an NOC in this regard.
Speaking in the Senate, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said, “The Ministry of Defense issues NOC to retired military officials, however, General Raheel Sharif has not yet requested the ministry for an NOC or clearance”.
Asked by the Senate chairman whether the former army chief has sought permission from his institution, the minister replied that had not sought any such permission from the Pakistan Army.
“Sharif went to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage, on an invitation extended to him. He had informed about this,” Asif said, adding that former COAS is back from Umrah.
“He (Sharif) has neither requested the Ministry of Defense nor the GHQ after having returned to the country.”
Gen Sharif has also not informed whether he has been offered a post in the 39-nation alliance of Muslim states, the defense minister told the Senate.
He added that existing rules will also be changed pertaining to taking up a foreign job.
In his reply in the Senate, Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said the foreign policy of the country cannot be impacted since nothing has yet been offered to the former army chief.
On Monday, Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani had asked the defence minister to provide details of former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of a Saudi-led 39-nation Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism.
“Whether Gen Sharif sought permission prior to taking up the job or was an NoC issued to him?” Rabbani had asked. “And, if an NOC was issued, then who issued it?”
Last week, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had confirmed the former army chief’s appointment to the 39-nation coalition force.
The minister had said the decision to appoint the retired general, who spearheaded a campaign against militants at home, was taken with the consent of both the Army’s General Headquarters and the government of Pakistan.
Islamic coalition formed to combat terrorism
News of the alliance’s formation was first reported in December 2015, with reports of Middle Eastern, African and Asian states including Saudi Arabia, Gulf states, Pakistan, Egypt being part of the then 34 nation coalition.
The objective of the Saudi-led alliance was “to coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism”.
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen and other Muslim countries are said to be part of the coalition. The Joint Command Centre, headquarters of the military alliance is located in Riyadh.
The coalition would tackle “the Islamic world’s problem with terrorism and will be a partner in the worldwide fight against this scourge” announced Saudi defence minister and deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud at a press conference in Riyadh in 2015.
Arrangements would be made for “coordination with friendly peace-loving nations and international bodies for the sake of supporting international efforts to combat terrorism and to save international peace and security”, he had said.
Salman told reporters that the campaign would “coordinate” efforts to fight terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, but offered few concrete indications of how military efforts might proceed.
“There will be international coordination with major powers and international organisations … in terms of operations in Syria and Iraq. We can’t undertake these operations without coordinating with legitimacy in this place and the international community,” bin Salman said without elaborating.
Asked if the new alliance would focus just on Islamic State (Daesh), bin Salman said it would confront not only that group but “any terrorist organisation that appears in front of us”.