Raheel Sharif's fate rests on Imran Khan as Pakistan SC asks govt to vet ex-army chief's appointment to Islamic military alliance

Islamabad: The fate of former Pakistan army chief, Raheel Sharif, hangs in the balance after the Supreme Court of Pakistan directed the concerned authorities to place his appointment as the commander-in-chief of a coalition force of Islamic nations, before the federal Cabinet for a regular approval (or disapproval).

Once Pakistan’s most powerful man, Sharif is currently serving as the commander-in-chief of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), a Saudi-led "41-nation pan-Islamic coalition", announced in December 2015.

Pakistan's former army chief Raheel Sharif. File photo. Reuters

File image of Pakistan's former army chief Raheel Sharif. Reuters

The former Pakistan army chief may face embarrassment as the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which had strongly opposed the previous government's decision to allow Sharif to join the coalition force, is all set to form the next government in Centre after winning majority seats in general elections held on 25 July, 2018.

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

The Supreme Court of Pakistan was told on Tuesday that the former chief of army staff (COAS) had joined the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition as its head in April 2017 without obtaining a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the government. Sharif retired from the service in November 2016.

However, defence secretary Lieutenant General (retired) Zamirul Hassan, informed the court that the "former chief of Pakistan army joined the coalition military only after the defence ministry granted him NOC to accept the post of the Commander of Islamic Military Counter-terrorism Coalition in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, however, clarified that as per the law, only the federal government can grant NOC to government officers willing to join services in foreign lands.

"It is mandatory for the NOC to be approved by the federal Cabinet under government service rules,” Khan said.

A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of Supreme Court Mian Saqib Nisar directed the concerned authorities to place the matter of Sharif's appointment before the federal Cabinet for a regular approval (or disapproval).

"The rule of law must be ensured. We have to proceed according to the law," Chief Justice remarked during the hearing. He observed that only the Cabinet represents and control the federal government. Hence, only it can grant NOC to officials like Sharif who intend to join services abroad.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Supreme Court has directed the concerned authorities to consult the federal Cabinet with regards to approval or disapproval of the NOC given to the former military chief. "The Supreme Court has directed the concerned authorities to consult the Cabinet on this matter. However, no official order was issued from the office of registrar of the Supreme Court yet,” Shahid Hussain, Public Relation Officer of Supreme Court said.

It is worth mentioning here that Sharif's appointment as the head of the Saudi-led military alliance had sparked debate across Pakistan. Opposition parties questioned his appointment arguing the move will impact Pakistan's foreign policy.

The 41-nation armed coalition headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was initially proposed as a platform for security cooperation among Muslim countries including Pakistan. Its primary responsibilities included provisions for training, equipment and troops, and the involvement of religious scholars for devising a counter-terrorism narrative.

Experts in Pakistan and abroad had raised concerns about the nature of the alliance and how it may affect a pre-existing parliamentary resolution on Yemen passed unanimously by lawmakers calling for "neutrality in the conflict" in 2015.

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Updated Date: Aug 08, 2018 15:19:00 IST

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