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Raheel Sharif allowed to lead Saudi military alliance: Khawaja Asif

26 March, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Saturday the government has formally permitted former army chief General (r) Raheel Sharif to lead Saudi military alliance to "fight militancy". He said this during an interview with a private TV channel. The former army chief's assignment to lead 'Islamic' Military Alliance has been a matter of controversy in the media. This coalition force was formed by Saudi Arabia's Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud on December 15, 2015.

Sharing the details, the minister said, "The Saudi government had sought a written permission from Pakistan which we have given. It is a matter between the two governments and not an individual affair."

A meeting of Advisory Council of member states is scheduled for May this year, he said. "Everything is finalized regarding the coalition."

Saudi Arabia has also issued Gen Raheel and his wife three-year multiple visas, possibly making him the first Pakistani in ten years, who has been granted this facility in private capacity.

Raheel will reside in Riyadh where the joint operation centre of this alliance has been established. He will be the alliance's founding commander-in-chief.

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

"I believe that when Gen Raheel Sharif joins, he will define a structure [for the alliance]", Asif said.

On January 11, Asif had told the Senate that Raheel Sharif would be required to seek a no-objection certificate from the government prior to accepting a position as chief of the 39-nation Islamic military coalition.

"The rules laid down by the Ministry of Defence for post-retirement assignments of army officers will be applicable equally to Raheel Sharif," Asif had said in the Senate session.

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