NOC granted to Raheel for heading Saudi-led military coalition

ISLAMABAD: The government has issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) regarding appointment of former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif as head of a Saudi Arabia-led military alliance comprising personnel from 41 Muslim countries.

The NOC has been issued in view of an approval that was granted by the federal cabinet during its meeting held on Jan 10, according to a official.

Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed that the NOC had indeed been issued after approval by the federal cabinet.

“The issue was not on the normal agenda of the federal cabinet’s meeting but it was approved through circulation,” the minister said while talking to media.

Cabinet approved decision in last meeting

Gen Sharif retired in November 2016 and joined the Muslim countries’ counterterrorism coalition in April 2017 amid controversy that he could not go for any job, especially abroad, within two years of his retirement from Pakistan Army.

Initially, it remained unclear whether the-then Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had issued any NOC to the general. But former defence minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif in 2017 revealed that Gen Sharif had applied for an NOC and that it was approved by the Ministry of Defence after due process.

However, the Supreme Court later directed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government to issue a fresh NOC that was needed by the general for employment abroad during the two-year period when he was not supposed to be employed.

The information minister said the government had submitted the NOC to the Supreme Court.

Earlier, the PTI had opposed the issuance of an NOC and questioned the decision to allow Gen Sharif to lead the Muslim countries’ military coalition without knowing its terms of reference, and aims and objectives.

The PTI was one of the parties that remained vocal on the issue in the days of the PML-N government.

Former defence minister Khawaja Asif had informed the National Assembly in April 2017 that the Saudi government would hold a meeting soon in which it would unveil the TOR of the alliance.

Mr Chaudhry had presented the PTI’s point of view on the issue and said: “We strongly oppose this decision and will soon bring the issue to parliament.”

The party was of the view that all parliamentary parties had decided that Pakistan should be neutral in the Middle East crisis. The decision to issue an NOC to Gen Sharif was contrary to the parliament’s decision.

Mr Chaudhry had then said the PML-N government’s decision could widen the schism that already existed between Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan.

The military coalition was reportedly envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including a provision for training and equipping of troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism.