Islamabad: Former Pakistani army chief General (retired) Raheel Sharif left for Saudi Arabia early Friday after the government allowed him to lead the Saudi-sponsored 41-nation Islamic military alliance, local media reports said.
Federal Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, speaking to Geo News television channel, confirmed that the federal government had given the former army chief the required No Objection Certificate for taking up the job after completion of all legal formalities and requirements.
Asif also said the certificate was issued after consent of Pakistan Army’s general headquarters (GHQ) based in the garrison city of Rawalpindi adjacent to Islamabad.
According to the media, Sharif left for Riyadh accompanied by his spouse and mother from the eastern city of Lahore on a special aircraft sent by the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has reportedly said the alliance, which does not include Iran and Iraq, would coordinate and support military operations to fight terrorism.
Last month, Pakistan’s national security adviser (NSA) Nasir Janjua had said Sharif spearheading the Saudi military alliance would bring unity to the Muslim world.
The NSA had said the structure of the alliance had not been decided so far and that in May, the advisory board of defence ministers of member countries would attend a meeting to be held in this regard.
“When Raheel Sharif joins he will define a structure,” Janjua had said, stressing that the former army chief would help remove misunderstandings among Muslim countries.
Earlier this week, Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan Mehdi Honardoost expressed reservations over Sharif’s role as head of the Saudi-led military alliance.
Pakistan’s defence minister has however said the military coalition “will not act against Iran.”
“This alliance is against terrorism, especially to help those countries which are threatened, but don’t have the necessary wherewithal to combat terrorists,” Asif was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.
News of the alliance’s formation was first reported in December 2015, with reports of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian states, including Saudi Arabia, Gulf states, Pakistan, and Egypt being part of the coalition.
Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, UAE, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen and other Muslim countries are said to be part of the alliance. The joint command centre, headquarters of the military alliance, is located in Riyadh.