Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif finally revealed that General (r) Raheel Sharif has not yet asked for permission from any institution in the country; government or the GHQ, to take up the role as Chief in Commander of the 34 coalition army set up by Saudi Arabia. This was told to the Senate after the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, held a session on the matter. The Minister also confirmed that no rules apply to Raheel Sharif if he wants to take a job in Saudi Arabia.
Khwaja Asif, clarified that not only that Raheel Sharif has not taken a NOC, but that he does not even need to get one. There was an uproar in the Senate on this comment as it became apparent that Pakistan has no laws on Ex-COAS and other senior officers, taking roles outside the country, immediately after relinquishing their positions in Pakistan.
it would imply that senior army officers are legally allowed to take positions, for example as a procurement contractor in the Indian army – if the Indians allowed them.
He also showed the Senate a letter issued by the Defence Ministry regarding rules and regulations that cover such matters. A NOC only has to be taken when retired army officers take jobs within Pakistan. The rulebook contains no rules regarding overseas employment for officers.
As per this understanding, it would imply that senior army officers are legally allowed to take positions, for example as a procurement contractor in the Indian army – if the Indians allowed them. Government and opposition benches in Parliament are highly critical of General Raheel Sharif’s taking a position as head of the Saudi led coalition of what has come to be called the ‘Sunni Muslim’ NATO.
Chairman Raza Rabbani asked whether Raheel Sharif had informed the GHQ about accepting this position, the minister responded, “No, he (Raheel Sharif) has not intimated.” The Defence minister, Khawaja Asif, defended the ministry’s incompetence by saying “It happened first time that ex-army chief has been offered such a big slot.” He has promised that the government will now amend the rules.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia had requested Pakistan to join its war against Yemen, an Iranian ally. The Pakistani parliament rejected the request, after it was decided it should not take sides between any of its neighbours or other friendly countries. It was believed it would acerbate sectarian issues in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia had then gone onto form a 34 nation Islamic military coalition with the ostensible motive to combat terrorism. Pakistan became a member of the coalition despite internal parliamentary opposition.
rumours of Saudi Arabia offering Gen Raheel Sharif this job have been circulating around the country for the past year. Why did no-one in the ministry look into the matter earlier.
The problem for Pakistan can very aptly be described in the words stated by PTI Senator Azam Swati , “If this appointment would be made then it would also affect Pakistan’s international relations. Apparently this alliance is against terrorism, and if Iran would make another alliance in future , and he takes another general from Pakistan to lead it then the problems relating to sectarianism would also arise,”
The question the ministry should be asking itself is that rumours of Saudi Arabia offering Gen Raheel Sharif this job have been circulating around the country for the past year. Why did no-one in the ministry look into the matter earlier. Where will the buck stop and who will take responsibility for this egregious error. Does the government intend to wait to change the law till after Raheel Sharif signs the dotted line on his contract with the Saudi Arabian government.