The Pakistani defence minister has confirmed that retired General Raheel Sharif is taking over as head of the Saudi-formed Islamic Military Alliance. Khawaja Asif told local media that he has approved the move to allow Sharif to be appointed to his new post, and is optimistic about the prospects that will follow.
"The Saudi government made a written request and we have given our consent in writing," explained Asif. He added that it is "only a matter of time before he takes up his position."
There has been a few months of confusion about the truth behind Sharif's appointment. In January, upon returning from the Umrah pilgrimage to Makkah, there was speculation that he had been appointed as the head of the alliance. Neither General Sharif nor the Pakistani defence ministry confirmed or denied the reports.
As of last week, though, Pakistan's National Security Adviser, Lieutenant General Nasser Khan Januja, said that the position was still unclear. However, he suggested that it would be beneficial to the global Islamic community should Sherif take the position. Januja was also quoted by BBC Urdu as saying that the appointment would bring Saudi Arabia and Iran together, due to Pakistan having diplomatic ties with both of the major regional rivals.
The Islamic Military Alliance was formed in September 2015, with 39 Muslim-majority countries joining forces in the fight against terrorism.