- Punjab CM-led Pak delegation discusses mutual ties with Saudi foreign minister, assures standing by KSA in critical time and defending its territorial sovereignty
- Saud Al-Faisal tells Pakistan it should become a part of GCC coalition while source says Pakistan is ready to extend cooperation to Saudis but not 10-nation alliance
Under immense diplomatic pressure, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday dispatched his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to hold dialogue with the Saudi authorities, reassess the situation in Yemen and assure the Saudis of Pakistan’s support.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Foreign Affairs Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Ambassador of Pakistan to Saudi Arabia Manzoorul Haq, Pakistani Consul General in Jeddah Aftab Ahmed Khokhar and Defence Attaché Brigadier Tahir Gulzar Malik called on Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on Wednesday and discussed matters of bilateral interest with him.
During the meeting, issues pertaining to the existing relations between Pakistan and KSA, steps to further promote the mutual ties and matters pertaining to sending Pakistani troops to Yemen were discussed in detail.
The Pakistani delegation assured the Saudi foreign minister that Pakistan will stand shoulder to should with KSA in every critical time and will defend it whenever there was threat to its sovereignty.
The meeting briefed the delegation about the joint resolution of the parliament and policy statement of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Saudi minister was told that the joint resolution was misinterpreted, leading to some misunderstandings which needed to be addressed now.
It said that KSA is Pakistan’s time-tested friend which has always stood by it in critical times and Pakistan will also stand by it in time of need. Pakistani nation has high respect for people and government of Saudi Arabia, it added.
On the occasion, Saud Al-Faisal told the Pakistani delegation that the Saudi government along with its allies crushed the Houthi rebels and now it was engaged in airstrikes against the rebellion and United Nations has also imposed a ban on them. He said that Pakistan should become a part of Gulf Cooperation Coalition (GCC).
A well placed source told Pakistan Today that the prime minister had decided to send Shahbaz Sharif after a telephonic conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“In his telephonic conversation, Kerry urged PM Sharif to reengage the Saudi Arabian authorities and reassess the request from Riyadh. He also asked the prime minister to play a role and help defuse the situation. Moreover, top civil and military leadership of the country had also decided to once again urge the Kingdom to accept Pakistani role for reconciliation. However, if Saudi authorities could convince Pakistan for a military role, Shahbaz Sharif-led delegation would reassess the needs of Saudi Arabia,” the source added.
Asked to elaborate as to how the matter could be resolve through peaceful means, the source said that since the UN had already placed sanctions over Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia-led coalition was also making gains on ground in Yemen, diplomacy could be given a chance.
“However, if diplomacy fails, Pakistan would try to cut a better deal with Saudi Arabia. Pakistan is not ready to join the Gulf forces in Yemen but Shahbaz Sharif may discuss with Saudi Arabia the option of sending ground troops and other related logistic support to Saudi Arabia. However, the support would be extended mutually to Saudi Arabia and not to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alliance,” the source added.
Asked why Pakistan was reluctant in extending support to the 10-nation alliance, the source said that Pakistan was unhappy with the conduct of some of the countries part of the alliance.
“For the time being, Shahbaz is mandated only to discuss the requirements of KSA for defending Saudi Arabian territory. Pakistan may consider Saudi request if Saudi Arabia could convince Pakistan to send troops for its Yemen initiative,” the source said, adding that a visit to the Kingdom by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif could not be ruled out in the near future.
Minister for Information Senator Pervez Rashid said that Shahbaz had gone to Saudi Arabia to reassess the situation and inform the Saudi Arabian government about the stance taken by Pakistan on Yemen crisis.
“This visit is a part of diplomatic efforts in view of the fast changing scenario. This is an ongoing situation as new developments are taking place with each passing day,” he said.
Asked whether Pakistan was reconsidering Saudi request for sending troops to the KSA, the minister said that anything would be premature to state at this point of time.
“We will review the situation in view of the discussions between the Punjab chief minister with the Saudi Arabian government. Only then we can discuss a new scenario,” he added.