Defense minister has backtracked from his comment about the appointment of former Pakistani army chief as the head of Saudi Arabia-led Islamic Military Alliance, saying the government did not approve the move.
The 30-plus alliance of Muslim countries aims to jointly fight against extremism.
Defense Minister Khawaja Asif, who earlier this week confirmed former Gen. Raheel Sharif’s appointment to the post, has now backtracked from his statement, saying neither Saudi Arabia nor the former army chief contacted the government for approval.
In a statement on Wednesday, the defense minister told the Senate the government had not issued any clearance to Sharif and any decision about such a request, if received, would be taken in accordance with the law.
According to government rules and procedures, a retired army officer needs a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Defense before getting re-employed by any other institution or country.
The defense minister’s statement follows a heated debate in the parliament this week, mainly from opposition members who sought an explanation over the appointment of Sharif who retired just a couple of months back.
About the ex-army chief’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Asif told senators: “Gen. Raheel Sharif had proceeded to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and not for this purpose.”
The former chief returned from Saudi Arabia on Jan. 7, the defense minister said.
The government will take the parliament into confidence if such a request was received from the former army chief who retired in November 2016, Asif added.
In an interview with local Geo television, the defense minister explained why he made contradictory statements. “I was not ready for that question and did not have complete information when I had made my previous statement regarding his appointment,” he said.
In an interview on Friday, Asif said Sharif had already taken charge as chief of the Islamic Military Alliance a “couple of days ago”.
The Saudi Arabia-led alliance that includes countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, the U.A.E., and other Gulf and African countries had been formed to “to protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all extremist groups and organizations”, mainly ISIL.
Iran, however, the Saudi Arabia’s arch rival, was not made part of the alliance as the two sides differed deeply over several regional conflicts, including in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.