By Mumtaz AlviJanuary 12, 2017Print : Top Story
ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday told the Senate that neither the Defence Ministry nor the General Headquarters (GHQ) had received any request for a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the former chief of the army staff (COAS), General (retd) Raheel Sharif, prior to his reported new job as the head of an alliance of 39 Muslim states.
Briefing the House on this matter, as was directed on Monday by Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that General (retd) Sharif had gone to perform Umrah in Saudi Arabia, for which he did inform the GHQ and after performing Umrah, he returned home days ago, adding that he had not informed the government of any Saudi offer to lead the military alliance.
“So far there is no request from the former army chief and if he opts to go abroad, he would definitely be required to seek an NOC from the government prior to accepting the position of the chief of the 39-nation military coalition,” he maintained.
Rabbani had sought a report from the Defence Ministry after it was reported that Gen (retd) Raheel had agreed to become the first commander-in-chief of the military alliance, a proposed coalition of 39 countries, led by Saudi Arabia.
Khawaja Asif had revealed on television that General (retd) Sharif would become the first commander-in-chief of the alliance. He clarified that that the government was still unaware of his appointment as the head of the coalition.
He said that under the rules, a retired army officer would have to seek an NOC from the Defence Ministry before taking a job abroad, adding the rules for post-retirement assignments of army officers would be equally applicable to Raheel Sharif.
To a question by Rabbani whether the former military general had informed the Pakistan Army in this regard, Asif said that he had informed the military. Vehemently opposing the appointment of General Raheel Sharif to head the Saudi-led military alliance, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar warned the government against far-reaching consequences for Pakistan.
Taking part in the discussion, Babar said that the military alliance was formed ostensibly to fight terrorism. However, by deliberately keeping out the Shia countries of Iran, Iraq and Syria, it was widely perceived as a grouping of Sunni countries fighting against the Shia Muslims in the region.
“What will happen if tomorrow Iran formed a similar military alliance of Shia countries and invited a retired sympathetic Pakistani senior military commander to head it? This is a recipe for disaster,” he warned.
Babar recalled that the joint sitting of parliament had unanimously said a big no to any participation in the military alliance and if a recently retired general went straight from the GHQ to head the same, it would send a very wrong and disturbing message all around.
“General Raheel had earned unprecedented respect of the entire nation across-the-board and heading the new military alliance will not add to his standing,” he said urging the former general to himself decline the offer.
He said that General Raheel had announced his decision to retire from the army 10 months ahead of the retirement date for which he was greatly admired and applauded by all. “All that applause will die down if he joined the alliance within days of his retirement and tongues will start wagging about the early announcement,” he said.