ISLAMABAD: Former Army Chief Gen (Retd) Raheel Sharif reached Saudi Arabia to lead a 41-nation military alliance against terrorism.
Soon after the former army chief was given a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) by the government, he left for Saudi Arabia in a special plane sent by the kingdom on Friday.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif confirmed that Gen Raheel was given the NOC as per rules and regulations. The minister said the decision was taken a couple of days back.
This statement came just a month after reports suggested that the government had agreed in principle to allow the former army chief to lead the 41-nation counterterrorism alliance.
This move will certainly invite strong reaction from the opposition – including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which wanted a debate in parliament before any decision on Gen Raheel’s role in the alliance.
Both the defence minister and Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had assured that the government would take parliament into confidence when the decision on Gen Raheel would be finalised.
Opposition parties are wary of the government’s decision fearing that joining the Saudi-led Islamic alliance would change Pakistan’s policy of neutrality on Yemen and other issues in the Middle East.
Almost two years ago, Pakistan parliament unanimously voted against sending troops to Saudi Arabia, urging the government to stay neutral in the Yemeni conflict.
Opposition parties now insisted that the decision to be part of the alliance was against that parliamentary resolution.
The government has defended its decision, insisting that Pakistan would not become part of any alliance that is against any other Muslim country, including Iran, which has expressed its concerns over Gen Raheel’s appointment as head of the 41-nation Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism.