The Supreme Court was informed by the attorney general on Tuesday that former army chief Gen Raheel Sharif did not obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the federal cabinet before leaving for Saudi Arabia to head a 41-nation military alliance.

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. It is required for the NOC to be approved by the federal cabinet under government service rules, he added.

The attorney general presented the legal perspective after defence secretary retired Lt Gen Zamirul Hassan informed the court that it was the defence ministry which had granted NOC to the ex-chief of army staff after General Headquarters (GHQ) cleared him to accept the post of Commander of Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Speaking about Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the secretary told the court that the former ISI director general has informed in his reply that he is currently unemployed.

After hearing all sides, a three-judge bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar ordered authorities that the matter of Sharif's appointment be placed before the federal cabinet for a regular approval (or disapproval).

"We have to proceed according to the law," the CJP 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.

The hearing was adjourned till an unannounced date after the summer vacations as the attorney general and defence secretary sought time to refer the matter of NOC to the cabinet.

The court was earlier informed by the defence secretary that the process is underway to receive an undertaking from all members of the armed forces that they are not dual nationals.

At the last hearing of the case on Wednesday, the top court had wondered how former chiefs of the Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence could take up foreign jobs without completing the mandatory gap of two years after their retirement.

The court had also asked the defence secretary to furnish the NOCs issued by the government to Sharif and ISI chief Pasha for joining foreign jobs.

Concerns about the Saudi military alliance

The appointment of Raheel Sharif as the leader of the Saudi military alliance last year had sparked debate over how the move will impact Pakistan's foreign policy, and whether it was fully sanctioned by parliament.

The 41-nation armed coalition was initially proposed as a platform for security cooperation among Muslim countries and included provisions for training, equipment and troops, and the involvement of religious scholars for devising a counter-terrorism narrative.

Various quarters subsequently 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.

The then-defence minister Khurram Dastagir had later informed the Senate that the alliance will not take part in "unrelated military operations".

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