Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday informed the Senate that former Army chief retired General Raheel Sharif would be required to seek a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the government prior to accepting a position as chief of the 39-nation Islamic military coalition.

The minister was providing an explanation to the Senate on media reports that said the former general has been appointed as commander-in-chief of an Arab coalition force led by Saudi Arabia.

The minister clarified that the government was as yet unaware of any development regarding Raheel Sharif's appointment as head of the coalition.

Asif made it clear that under the rules, a retired army officer would have to seek an NOC from the Ministry of Defence before embarking on any new assignment outside the country.

He said the former army chief had returned Pakistan after performing umrah in Saudi Arabia and claimed that his visit to the kingdom had been mistakenly highlighted by the media as an offer by Saudi Arabia for Raheel Sharif to lead the Islamic army.

"The rules laid down by the Ministry of Defence for post-retirement assignments of army officers will be applicable equally to Raheel Sharif," Asif reiterated.

Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani asked the minister whether Raheel Sharif had informed Pakistan Army in this regard.

"No, he has not informed the Army," the minister replied.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz informed the house that he will not speak on the issue as no formal offer had been made by Saudi Arabia in this regard.

Senator Farhatullah Babar intervened in the debate and said that any possible move by the retired Pakistani general to head a Saudi-led army will be detrimental to a resolution passed by Parliament last year advising Pakistan not to become part of the Middle East conflict.

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