Former Army Chief Gen (r) Raheel Sharif has left for Saudi Arabia after Government of Pakistan issued a No Objection Certificate for him to lead the Saudi-led military alliance.

Gen (r) Raheel Sharif had requested for an NOC to which the Pakistan government gave formal approval today.

“It has been done with approval of General Head Quaters of the Pakistan Army,” said Defence Minister Khawaja Asif.

Former Army Chief Raheel Sharif has left for Saudi Arabia in a special plane. According to reports, 5,000 Pakistani troops are departing to be a part of the coalition that has been billed as an 'Islamic military alliance'.

Earlier this month the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the decision to appoint retired army chief Raheel Sharif as head of the 39-nation Islamic coalition was taken by the state of Pakistan.

Raheel Sharif was selected last year by Riyadh as the commander of the Saudi-led alliance of Muslim-majority countries aimed at counter-terrorism. But this prompted concerns among politicians and within the army command that Pakistan was becoming too involved in an organisation that excluded Iran and Iraq, where the government is dominated by Shiites.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that Raheel Sharif's appointment had been finalised earlier in January.

Asif said last week that Pakistan will quit the Saudi-led Islamic coalition if it turns sectarian.