Senate ‘zeroes in’ on Raheel Sharif

* Kh Asif tells House no request for NOC by former COAS received so far * SAFRON minister stages walkout after 'dressing-down' by Rabbani

Senate ‘zeroes in’  on Raheel Sharif

ISLAMABAD: General (r) Raheel Sharif did not get any formal permission from the government, GHQ and the army regarding his new appointment as head of allied army, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday briefed the Senate.q

He also presented a letter issued by the Defence Ministry regarding rules and regulations in this regard.

After the minister's statement a hubbub was created in the House on which Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani decided to hold the debate in case of Gen Sharif's appointment. Both the treasury as well as opposition benches strongly criticised the former general's appointment as head of the "Muslim NATO".

He said the Defence Ministry had specific rules to hire services of retired armed forces officers within the country and in such cases an NOC was required before taking up the new responsibility.

However, the rules were silent about those who seek employment abroad, he added.

When Chairman Raza Rabbani asked the minister whether Raheel Sharif had informed his parent organisation in that regard, the minister said, "No, he (Raheel Sharif) has not intimated."

Asif said General Raheel has returned to the country after performing Umrah. He said that all the details are present in the rules and regulations regarding the re-appointment of any government official after his or her retirement. It happened first time that ex-army chief has been offered such a big slot and the government would bring change in the relevant laws in this connection.

On which, the chairman said that if the government's deemed amendment in rules necessary it should inform the House.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the Upper House that the government is taking review on all the modalities of the matter, however, he refused to comment on it.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that they have severe objections on this appointment, as it would leave deep impact on the country's foreign policy. In the joint session it was agreed that Pakistan would not become the member of any such alliance, which would endanger its future. He said that General (r) Raheel Sharif should not accept the slot as his legal tenure of 10 months after retirement is not completed yet.

"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," PTI Senator Azam Swati said.

ANP Senator Ilyas Bilour said that if this appointment would be made then Pakistan could become another Syria as the war on sectarian basis would start here. Pakistan is a nuclear state and it should be careful and avoid controversies, he added.

PPP Senator Taj Haider said that the nation is proud of Raheel Sharif but he should clear his position on the issue.

SAFRON Minister Lt Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch said the former general has not been appointed so far so it should not be made a political issue.

Baloch staged walkout from the House when Raza Rabbani lambasted him on giving justification regarding the appointment of former army chief as commander of the Saudi-led alliance.

Separately, Industries and Production Minister Ghulam Murtaza Khan Jatoi informed the Senate that the vacant posts in Utility Stores Corporation (USC) would be filled on merit within two to three months.

He said the USC advertised vacant posts twice but it could not be materialized due to financial issues of the organisation.