New Pakistan govt likely to approve Raheel Sharif as anti-terror coalition chief

General Raheel Sharif is serving as Military Commander of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition. (File photo: Reuters)

Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the country’s former army chief, General Raheel Sharif, to get permission from Pakistani government to continue his service as Military Commander of the 41-nation Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.

The unprecedented Supreme Court order had the potential to cause rift between Pakistan’s two powerful institutions but it is believed that the necessary approval may indeed be given under the new dispensation.

This is likely to be the case even though as opposition in Pakistan’s parliament, Prime Minister-elect Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), had opposed Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of military coalition. PTI swept to power during general elections held last month.

“We strongly oppose this government’s decision to allow ex-army chief to lead military coalition,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry told journalists last year.

However, speaking to Al Arabiya English on Tuesday, Fawad Chaudhary, who is now information secretary of PTI, said that his party will look into the merits of the case before taking a decision.

“Well its an important issue. Our government will get briefing from Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense to decide whether to give approval or not,” Chaudhary said.

Pakistan-Saudi relations

Experts believe there are more chances that PTI-led government will grant permission keeping in view Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship.

“Imran Khan led government can’t afford tensions in Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relationship. It is more likely to grant permission,” political and defense analyst Mustansar Abbas told Al Arabiya English.

On Sunday, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a cable of congratulations to Pakistan’s incoming Prime Minister Imran Khan following his parliamentary election win. Khan will be sworn in as prime minister next week.

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Chief Justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court was made aware last week that Sharif, ex-chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, joined the Saudi-led multinational military coalition without approval of the government of Pakistan.

Authorities also admitted that he took up the position without approval of the government. However, they said, General Headquarter of Pakistan’s military issued him No Objection Certificate (NoC). Supreme Court then directed the authorities to place his appointment before the federal cabinet for a regular approval.

Documents submitted to the Supreme Court last week, revealed that Raheel Sharif, who had retired from military service in November 2016, joined without obtaining NoC from the government. He, however, obtained NoC from General Headquarters (GHQ), which allowed him.

NoC by military

“Pakistan’s ex-chief of armed forces joined Military coalition of Islamic countries after defense ministry granted NoC to accept the post of Commander of Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Gen Zamirul Hassan, Secretary Ministry of Defense informed the court last week.

However, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan informed the court that as per the law, only federal government can grant NoC to government officers willing to join service in foreign lands. “It is mandatory for the NoC to be approved by the federal cabinet under government service rules,” he added.

A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Mian Saqib Nisar, directed the concerned authorities to place the matter before the federal cabinet.

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“We are here to ensure supremacy of the ‘Rule of law’. We have to proceed according to the law,” Chief Justice remarked during the hearing. He observed that the cabinet can grant such an NoC.

Public Relation Officer of Pakistan’s Supreme Court confirmed to Al Arabiya English that Supreme Court has directed concerned authorities to consult federal cabinet in this regard.

“Supreme court has directed concerned authorities to consult cabinet on this matter,” Shahid Hussain, Public Relation Officer of Supreme Court told Al Arabiya English.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:53 - GMT 06:53
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