- Govt decides to hold back its troops till official Saudi call
- ISPR DG says 292 Pak troops in Saudi Arabia only taking part in already scheduled military exercise
While the top civil and military leadership reiterates pledge for “supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia”, severe public and media pressure and lack of political support has however compelled the federal government to put off, at least for time being, its previous decision to send military troops to join allied forces against Yemeni rebels.
Rather than joining any of the warring factions, Pakistan has decided to play a role for mediation between both the parties through opening diplomatic channels with the international and Muslim states to help defuse the situation.
In this regard, Pakistan will use forums such as the United Nations (UN) and Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) among others.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, held in the federal capital on Monday to undertake a comprehensive review of the prevailing situation in the Middle East (ME).
The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Federal Minister for Defence Khwaja Muhammad Asif, Advisor to PM on National Security Sartaj Aziz, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, acting chief of naval staff Vice Admiral Khan Hasham Bin Siddique and Foreign Affairs secretary among other senior officials.
“The meeting concluded that Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan,” an official statement said.
“It was emphasised that Pakistan stands committed to playing a meaningful role in arresting the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. In the same context, and to facilitate early resolution of the crisis and to promote peace and unity of the Muslim Ummah, the prime minister would be contacting the leadership of brotherly countries,” the handout added.
“Pakistan calls upon the United Nations, OIC, and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution of the crisis,” the meeting concluded.
DECISION REVERSED UNDER PUBLIC PRESSURE:
A well-placed source in the government told Pakistan Today that “immense public and media pressure” had compelled the federal government to put off, at least for time being, the troops dispatch for Yemen offensive.
“The government has been taken aback by the unprecedented public and media pressure against joining the Yemen war. Moreover, the meeting was briefed that the media pressure was so enormous that even the right-wing religious outfits were also reluctant in supporting the government in this regard,” the source added.
The source said that not only the civilian leadership was “shocked” over the public pressure but the Establishment also shared its feedback over the subject.
“Since the government has full public support for Zarb-e-Azb and other operations, the military leadership has cautioned the civilian leadership against any public backlash if any unpopular decision was taken,” the source added.
The source said that initially, the military and civilian leaderships were fully onboard for extending full-fledged military support to the Saudi offensive against Yemen, as requested by the Saudi king. The source said that joining the Gulf alliance was “in line with the national interest” and could have benefitted Pakistan a lot in economic and diplomatic terms.
“In diplomacy, every country devises its policies in line with its interest. You like it or not, joining the coalition was the best recipe for our economic and diplomatic interest. However, we have missed this opportunity due to public and media pressure which has not only shocked the leadership but has also compelled them to drop their plan.”
The meeting noted with concern that the public reaction on the media reports about Pakistan’s “willingness” to join the anti-Yemen offensive was so strong that even extreme right-wing political parties including the likes of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ahle Hadith did not come forward to support the debate.
“Only Jamaatud Dawa, which is already a disbanded organisation, held a public rally but it had no significance as it does not enjoy mass public support,” the source said, adding that the matter got from bad to worse when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan openly opposed any idea to join the inferno in Yemen.
Later, the leaders of other major political parties, such as Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), JI and JUI-F, also urged the prime minister to evolve consensus among the political leadership by convening an All Parties Conference (APC).
“For the time being, the prime minister has been advised to open diplomatic channels with the gulf leaders in a bid to use the situation in the country’s best advantage,” the source said, also citing it as a reason for the two-day delay in government’s delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
“Pakistan will now tell the Saudi king that its troops will be ready to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia, however, the decision to dispatch troops will only be made if Saudi government seeks military support for security of its sensitive installations including Harmain Ash-Sharifain,” the source added.
Asked if Pakistan was ready to send troops for safeguarding the Saudi Arabian borders with Yemen, the official said any such decision was yet to be made.
“Any decision would be made once we receive any a formal request from the Saudi government. For the time being, sending troops is not on the table,” the official said.
TROOPS IN KSA FOR JOINT EXERCISE ONLY:
Meanwhile, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Maj General Asim Bajwa has clarified that the Pakistani troops were only taking part in the already scheduled joint exercises with the Saudi Arabian army in Saudi Arabia.
Gen Bajwa tweeted that a pre-scheduled Pak-Saudi joint Exercise named “Samsam-5” was being held since March 19 in Taif. He stated that the exercise was not an operational. He stated that Pakistan had deployed its 292 troops for the exercises. “Joint Ex Samsam is held every year. Last year it was held near Jhelum in Pakistan,” he added.