Pakistan's former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif did not obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Cabinet before leaving for Saudi Arabia to head a 41-nation military alliance, the attorney general informed the Supreme Court today.
The apex court had asked the government last week how it allowed Gen (retd) Sharif and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen (retd) Shuja Pasha to take up jobs abroad despite a law barring officers from accepting employment for two years post-retirement.
During the hearing of a suo motu case regarding dual nationality of civil servants and judges, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said that as per the law, the NOC is issued by the federal government to government officers willing to join service in foreign lands, Dawn reported.
He said that it is required for the NOC to be approved by the Cabinet under government service rules.
Khan presented the legal perspective after defence secretary Lt Gen (retd) Zamirul Hassan informed the court that it was the defence ministry which had granted NOC to Gen (retd) Sharif after Army Headquarters (GHQ) cleared him to accept the post of commander of the military alliance.
According to media reports, after retirement in 2012, the former ISI chief worked with a multinational firm based in the UAE. He now serves as group chief adviser to a Lahore-based firm owned by a Pakistani politician.
"We have to proceed according to the law," he said during the hearing, observing that the authority of the federal government is controlled by the Cabinet. He said the matter at hand was of an urgent nature.
Sharif's appointment as the leader of the Saudi-led military alliance sparked debate over how the move will impact Pakistan's foreign policy, and whether it was fully sanctioned by parliament.
His appointment had been criticised by some Pakistani politicians, retired army officers, journalists, intellectuals.
The Saudi-led coalition was envisaged to serve as a platform for security cooperation, including provision of training, equipment and troops, and involvement of religious scholars for dealing with extremism.
The Saudi government had surprised many countries by announcing that it had forged a coalition for coordinating and supporting military operations against terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.
Iran, Saudi Arabia's arch-rival for influence in the Arab world, was absent from the states named as participants, as proxy conflicts between the two regional powers rage from Syria to Yemen. Syria was also missing from the list of member states.
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