Raheel has not requested NOC for joining Islamic military alliance: Kh Asif
There is a bit of a haze surrounding former army chief Raheel Sharif’s appointment to lead a 39-nation Islamic military alliance, with different government officials taking different positions on the issue.
Defence minister Khwaja Asif first confirmed his appointment, which was subsequently denied by PM’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz.
The Senate was informed on Tuesday by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif that former Army Chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif had not requested for an NOC pertaining to appointment to the military alliance. Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaz Aziz said the former Army chief had not been offered any post by Saudi Arabia to the alliance.
Speaking in the Senate, 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”.
“Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif did not submit any application for a no objection certificate (NOC). There’s nothing in our notice,” the defence minister said in response to Senate chairman Raza Rabbani’s request for a clarification on the matter.
“General 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.”
General Sharif has also not informed whether he has been offered the post.
He added that existing rules will also be changed pertaining to taking up a foreign job.
Earlier, on January 6th, it was Khawaja Asif who had confirmed speculations regarding the appointment of the former army chief to the aforementioned job. This was met by spirited criticism from certain quarters.
Reacting to the noise, 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, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had asked the defence minister to provide details of the army chief’s appointment as the head the 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?”
Senator Farhatullah Babar intervened in the debate and said that any possible move by the retired Pakistani general to head a Saudi-led army will be detrimental to a resolution passed by Parliament last year advising Pakistan not to become part of the Middle East conflict.
Defence analyst General (retd) Amjad Shoaib, speaking to a private news channel, cited Raheel Sharif as saying that the ex-general was “disappointed at remarks hurled on his heading the Saudi military alliance.” He said Sharif was disappointed at people issuing statements without being cognizant on the matter.
Amjad Shoaib also revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had given approval after Saudi authorities expressed their desire to appoint General (retd) Raheel as the chief of the military alliance.
The former military officer revealed that General (retd) Raheel set three conditions for taking up the new job that are as followed:
- To include Iran in the military alliance so that the organisation doesn’t look sectarian in nature.
- He’ll not work under anyone’s command.
- He’ll have the mandate to act as an arbitrator if there is a need to promote harmony among Muslim countries.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had said Monday that any decision regarding appointment of General (retd) Raheel Sharif as head of Saudi-led Islamic military alliance would be taken in accordance with the Constitution and in the larger national interest.
Dar, while talking to a private news channel, disclosed that Saudi Arabia was keen to appoint Raheel Sharif as head of the Islamic military alliance even prior to his retirement.
“Both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif had a consensus view that it will be a conflict of interests. It would have been inappropriate to head the 39-nation NATO-type Islamic alliance while still serving as head of Pakistan’s armed forces,” he had said.