LAHORE: Former army chief General (r) Raheel Sharif will formally join and lead the Saudi-led 39 countries’ coalition in May this year, Daily Times learnt on Saturday. According to sources, a letter seeking a no objection certificate (NOC) in this regard was sent by the Saudi government to the Pakistani government. In reply to the Saudi letter, Pakistan granted an official NOC on March 6, 2017, permitting the former army chief to head the military coalition. The Kingdom has also planned to hold a conference in Riyadh, coalition’s headquarter, to formally announce General (r) Raheel’s appointment as the head. Sources also confirmed that this coalition would be consisting of serving as well as retired army personnel from various countries with an aim to curb the menace of terrorism from the face of Muslim countries. The purpose of this coalition was to fight against ISIS and other militant outfits operating in different countries. Turkey, Bangladesh, UAE, Bahrain, Tunisia, Sudan, Malaysia, Egypt, Yemen and other countries are included in the coalition. The would-be coalition chief, after his formal announcement, will start negotiations with Iran in order to convince the country join the coalition. Iran was initially not included in the grouping which was translated by some as a vague attempt to forge a Sunni Muslim alliance against Shiite Iran to curtail its influence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the rest of Middle East. At the time of its constitution, there were 34 countries in the alliance, the number of which was raised to 39. For the last two years, the Saudi-led coalition is busy conducting a military operation in Yemen, where Houthis drove out the government led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is believed to be in exile in Saudi Arabia. A senior government official, on the other hand, has denied regarding issuance of any such NOC by the Pakistani authorities in reply to the Saudi request.