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Raheel Sharif's appointment as head of Saudi-led Islamic military coalition sparks controversy

India TV News Desk Islamabad 11 Jan 2017, 11:16:31 IST
India TV News Desk

Pakistan's ex-army chief General Raheel Sharif appointed as the head of the Saudi Arabia-led 39-nation Islamic military alliance to combat terrorism has sparked a debate in his own country. 

Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani has now asked the government whether the former army chief had sought permission from the federal government or taken it into confidence over his reported appointment as commander of the 39-nation alliance.

Asking Defence Minister Khawaja Asif to keep in mind the rules for a retired officer seeking an appointment, he on Monday asked whether "a no objection certificate was issued and the federal government was taken into confidence?" country’s leading newspaper Dawn reported.

"I heard your statement on TV and you were not clear yourself," Rabbani said, adding that a contradictory statement from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's aide Musaddiq Malik had made the matter even more ambiguous.

Rabbani has also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify what would be the implications of the decision in terms of foreign policy and its effect on a decision, taken at the joint sitting of parliament, not to become part of any such alliance. 
There has so far been no official confirmation of the fact that Gen Sharif will assume command of the alliance, the report said.

Interestingly, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar indicated the government is unaware of the general's reported decision.

In a Samaa TV programme, Dar expressed ignorance about the Saudi offer to Gen Sharif. He, however, felt certain that Gen Sharif would consult the government and fulfill legal and constitutional requirements before taking any decision on leading the military coalition.

He said that Saudi Arabia wanted Gen Sharif to head the coalition while he was army chief.

"Basically when he was in service, the government of Saudi Arabia wanted him to head the coalition forces of Islamic countries while discharging his duties as COAS. It was consensus among Prime Minister Sharif, the government and the then COAS that it would be a conflict of interests," Dar said, adding that it was not fair for him to head a coalition force comprising 34 or 39 countries while being the COAS.

Khawaja Asif had earlier said that General Raheel Sharif’s appointment as commander-in-chief of Saudi-led military coalition was made a few days ago and the government was taken into confidence about the decision.

"Any such appointment requires proper clearance from the government and the army's General Headquarters (GHQ)," the minister replied when asked if the decision was made in Islamabad or Riyadh. He said Prime Minister was part of the deliberations before assigning this role to Gen Raheel Sharif.

Gen Raheel Sharif had retired from service last November and was succeeded by the incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa. 

A recent video of the retired general in Medina at Masjid-e-Nabwi, one the holy sites for Muslims, went viral on social media with people of Pakistani origin chanting slogans, "Long live General Raheel Sharif, pride of Pakistan".