The federal government has granted a No Objection Certificate to former Chief of Army Staff General (retd) Raheel Sharif to join a 39-nation military alliance of Muslim countries led by Saudi Arabia, the defence minister said Friday.

Federal Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told Geo News that Sharif was given permission to head the military alliance after completion of all legal formalities and requirements.

Asif said the former top commander was given the NOC after approval from the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

Our correspondent in Lahore confirmed that Sharif departed for Riyadh earlier today on a special aircraft which had arrived in Lahore to receive him. Sharif was accompanied by his wife and mother on the flight.

The defence minister had said earlier that Pakistan had received a written request from the Saudi government for employing Gen (retd) Sharif as head of the military alliance.

Last month, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Nasir Janjua said that Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif spearheading the Saudi military alliance would bring unity to the Muslim world.

Janjua stressed that, with his experience, General (retd) Sharif would remove misunderstandings among Muslim countries. “Iran and other countries opposed of the alliance will also benefit from this.”

The national security adviser had said that the structure of the alliance had not been decided so far and that in May, the advisory board of defence ministers of member countries would attend a meeting held in this regard.

“When General (Retd) Raheel Sharif joins he will define a structure,” Janjua had said, speaking at a conference in Islamabad.