- Minister says training of Saudi forces is governed by 1982 bilateral protocol concerning army’s deployment in KSA
ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir on Monday refused to divulge the “operational details of troops deployment in Saudi Arabia” after he was summoned by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani for a briefing on the issue.
Dastgir even turned down an in-camera session’s proposal floated by Rabbani, saying: “Even in an in-camera session, we’d request not to be asked questions on the exact deployment as this is an issue relating with the national security and that of the troops.”
Speaking regarding the number of troops in Saudi Arabia, the defence minister told the Senate that 1,600 troops are currently deployed while another 1,000 have been approved to undergo training there.
During the session, the defence minister said that Pakistan shares long-lasting and strong terms with Saudi Arabia and that at least 1,600 personnel are currently deployed in Arabia.
He said that another 1,000 troops have been approved to undergo training in the state. He said that the deputation is a continuation of the on-going support and within the confines of joint parliamentary resolution of April 2015.
Dastagir once again refused to disclose details when Senator Farhatullah Babar asked if the troops are going to be deployed in Sharora, which is a town bordering Yemen.
He said: “The training of Saudi forces is governed by 1982 bilateral protocol regarding the deployment of Pakistan’s Armed Forces personnel,” adding that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also hold joint defence exercises regularly.
Expressing displeasure with the “incomplete briefing”, Rabbani asked the minister to clarify the matter and answer concerns of the senators with regard to dispatching the troops to Saudi Arabia.
On the other hand, Opposition Leader Aitzaz Ahsan said that he was not opposing military relations with Saudi Arabia, and asked whether the ministry contemplated what influence this action would have on neighbouring states, particularly Iran.
Ahsan said that the government of Saudi Arabia has a “hostile stance” towards Iran and an action in this regard could cause tensions to escalate between Pakistan and Iran.
The defence minister was in the house for a briefing after certain senators had expressed concerns over the recent policy statement given by the army.
“In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to KSA on training and advice mission,” Pakistan Army’s media cell had stated on Thursday.
It went to state that “troops already there will not be employed outside KSA. Pak Army maintains bilateral security cooperation with many other GCC/regional countries”.