No offer yet made to Gen Raheel to head Islamic coalition force

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Zahid Chaudhary

Islamabad

Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Senate on Wednesday that former Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has not yet been offered any post by Saudi Arabia pertaining to a 39-nation Islamic coalition force.
Speaking on the floor of the upper house, he said the foreign policy of the country cannot be impacted since nothing has yet been offered to the former army chief.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said former Army chief General Raheel Sharif would be required to seek a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the government prior to accepting a position as chief of the 39-nation Islamic military coalition.
The minister was providing an explanation to the Senate on media reports that said the former general has been appointed as commander-in-chief of an Arab coalition force led by Saudi Arabia.
In a clear departure from his earlier statement the defense minister made at an interview, Khawaja Asif said government was as yet unaware of any development regarding Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of the coalition.
Asif made it clear that under the rules, a retired army officer would have to seek an NOC from the Ministry of Defence before embarking on any new assignment outside the country.
He said the former army chief had returned Pakistan after performing Umrah in Saudi Arabia and claimed that his visit to the kingdom had been mistakenly highlighted by the media as an offer by Saudi Arabia for Raheel Sharif to lead the Islamic army.
“The rules laid down by the Ministry of Defence for post-retirement assignments of army officers will be applicable equally to Raheel Sharif,” Asif reiterated.
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?”
The objective of the Saudi-led alliance established in 2015 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.

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