- Shying away from sharing details, PM, defence minister say KSA not threatened, want Parliament to sort Yemen issue through negotiations
- Parliamentarians speak in favour of mediation as opposed to being party to war against Houthis
- PM Sharif invites Iran to contribute in shaping stance on solving the Yemen crisis
Dispelling the notion that Pakistan has committed its troops to Saudi Arabia for fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Tuesday that there was no immediate threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity and Pakistan is “not in a hurry” to decide on joining the Saudi-led coalition.
The premier was addressing day two of the joint session of the Parliament a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif revealed that Saudi Arabia wanted Pakistani warplanes, warships and soldiers. Not a single lawmaker has spoken in favour of sending troops so far.
“Pakistan would stand by Saudi Arabia if there is any threat to its integrity. However, there is no such threat at the moment. Let me make it clear that the government has not taken any decision on Yemen’s conflict so far,” the premier told the House.
The stance was endorsed by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif during a news channel’s talk show.
“There is no imminent threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity or to the Haramain Sharifain,” he said, adding that in case there is danger, Pakistan will stand by its Saudi brethren.
The minister added that Pakistani troops are not on the Yemen border, but in fact 1,000 troops are in Saudi Arabia for military training and will be back within a few days. He said that the government’s first preference would be to play the role of a mediator in resolving the crisis in Yemen, adding that the government’s policy was in line with the military’s perspective on the issue.
FORGET DETAILS, I WONT LIE TO YOU:
Earlier, starting his address in the Parliament, PM Sharif addressed Senator Aitzaz Ahsan’s concern that the defence minister did not divulge enough details about Saudi Arabia’s request to join the Yemen offensive. He made it clear that no further details could be shared with the Parliament over the government’s talks with the Saudi authorities over Gulf crisis, stating that it would be “inappropriate” to delve into details of talks “owing to the sensitive nature” of the issue. “I think we should take all precautions,” he said.
LET’S TALK, NO HURRY:
However, in the same breath, he sought guidance from the Parliament, adding that the government would finalise its policy on Yemen in “accordance with the parliament’s decision”.
“Take your time, we are not in a hurry,” Sharif said, adding that his government was planning to formulate a policy based on “good suggestions” by parliamentarians. He said that besides parliament, government had also been in touch with the military on the issue.
BRING TURKEY IN, AND IRAN TOO:
On Pakistan’s contacts with countries over Yemen, the premier said that he is currently waiting for a statement from Turkey, which is expected today after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meeting with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
He said that stances of Pakistan and Turkey on Yemen have been very similar so far and after knowing their statement, the prime ministers of the two countries may also consult other countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also begins a two-day visit to Pakistan on Wednesday (today) and discussions on Yemen are expected to dominate the meetings. The premier also said he welcomed Iranian input.
“Iran should also join the discussion and evaluate whether their policy is correct or not,” PM Sharif said.
OPP NOT IN A HURRY EITHER:
Speaking in the House, National Assembly Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that parliamentarians are not in a rush to decide on the Yemen issue. “But we want that the prime ministers of Turkey and Pakistan should find a reasonable way to douse the fire raging in Yemen,” he said.
Moreover, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar said, “It is not in our national interests to be used by any Middle Eastern country for posturing against Iran,” adding that Pakistan was the biggest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions and this capability may be useful for UN peacekeeping in Yemen.
“This will enable us to have our troops in Yemen but only for peacekeeping and under UN banner,” Babar said, adding that an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian assistance must also receive priority, as delay will not only result in a human catastrophe but also defeat the purpose of the ongoing operation in Yemen.
Moreover, the PPP leader said that the crisis in Yemen was “basically political” that called for a political solution and not a military response.
“Last week Iran offered that it could talk with Saudi Arabia for resolving the Yemen crisis. This provides an opening for Pakistan to act as an honest mediator,” he said, adding that strengthening relations with the Muslim world was also a constitutional requirement and this was possible only if Pakistan was seen as a mediator and not as a party in the war.
“The government would be well advised to look into the past history of interventionism for drawing appropriate lessons,” he said, recalling the intervention in Jordon in 1967 to drive out Palestinians, which “earned some dollars but alienated the PLO” which then never supported Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.
Babar also welcomed PTI lawmakers for rejoining the Parliament and criticized Khawaja Asif for his brashness against PTI leadership. “I appreciate that this parliamentary session was called and it was a good gesture for the PM to be here on both days,” he said.
However, PPP’s Shah had told reporters in his chambers, “PTI would sit on the opposition as an independent party, not part of a grand opposition,” castigating PTI chief Imran Khan for declaring assemblies as bogus.
LET’S MEDIATE, RECONCILE:
Moreover, speaking in the House, senior lawmaker of the opposition Awami National Party (ANP) Ghulam Ahmad Bilour said that instead of sending troops to fight the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role. He underscored that Pakistan should stay out of the war, adding that its involvement would only lead to a greater sectarian divide in the country.
Taking part in the debate, central leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Quad (PML-Q) Mushahid Hussain Syed recommended that Pakistan and Turkey should co-host mediation between Saudi Arabia and Iran to sort out amicable solution to the Yemen crisis.
He also suggested that Chinese friends should also be asked to play their role in United National Security Council for ceasefire and paving way for national reconciliation. He said that country should not repeat its past mistakes, such as the one in Afghanistan.
Syed said there were no threats to Saudi Arabia territory rather it was a civil war in Yemen. He made it clear that Yemen war is not a sectarian conflict rather it was a tribal struggle for power. Yemen had witnessed such many civil wars in last 50 years including 1962, 1972, 1982 and in 2004.
Speaking on the floor, National Party (NP) President Hasil Bazenjo said Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role in Yemen instead of becoming an ally.
Echoing Bizenjo, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq also said that Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role in Yemen and prevent Saudis from waging a war against Houthi rebels. He termed the Yemen situation as part of a bigger game and said all Arab countries are burning in turmoil.
“We are ready to go to every country in the Muslim world and provide support. If the government takes a step for peace, the entire assembly is with them,” the JI chief said, appreciating Iran and Turkey’s efforts for peace to resolve the Yemen conflict.