As many as 1,671 Pakistani soldiers deployed in Saudi Arabia, NA told

  • Defence minister tells NA 912 personnel deployed under Saudi Ministry of Defence while 759 are under Ministry of Interior 

  • 629 military personnel deployed in Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir on Tuesday informed the National Assembly that as many as 1, 671 Pakistani armed forces personnel have been deployed in Saudi Arabia followed by 629 in Qatar and 66 in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In his written reply to the Assembly, Dastgir said that 912 personnel are deployed under Saudi Ministry of Defence while 759 are under the Ministry of Interior of the kingdom.

In further breakdown of the statistics, the minister told the Lower House that 742 out of 912 personnel belong to the army, 108 are from the navy and 62 are from the airforce, whereas, out of 759 officials from armed forces working under Saudi Ministry of Interior, 653 are from military, 56 from naval forces and 50 from the air force.

Moreover, the Pakistani forces are serving in seven other countries, the minister mentioned in his reply.

After Saudi Arabia, the highest number of Pakistani military personnel is deployed in Qatar with the total of 629. 155 are from the army, 433 from navy and 107 are from the air force, the minister added.

Furthermore, only one Pakistani soldier is deployed in Australia, 15 in Bahrain, four in Brunei and six in Jordan.

According to the minister, the personnel are deployed in these countries under different MoUs and agreements with the respective countries.

On February 17, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani summoned the defence minister before the Upper House of Parliament with regards to the army’s announcement of sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

The decision was taken after then-Senator Farhatullah Babar raised objections over the army’s deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), terming the development as “tantamount to bypassing the parliament”.

Drawing the attention of the House to the matter, Babar called the deployment to Saudi Arabia an issue of public importance. He said he had also given an adjournment notice to discuss the issue.

This comes after Pakistan Army announced on February 15, that it was deploying troops in Saudi Arabia under an existing bilateral security pact. The army made it clear that its contingent will take part in training and advice mission in Saudi Arabia.

“In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to KSA on training and advice mission,” the Inter-Services Public Relations had announced after a meeting between Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Saudi Ambassador Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki at the General Headquarters.

Referring to the ISPR announcement, Babar said that the development came after a meeting between the COAS and Saudi ambassador which was preceded by a recent three-day visit — the second in two months — “quietly” undertaken to Saudi Arabia.

He maintained that the number of troops being sent is unknown but the disclosure that it will be less than a division “indicated that almost a full-fledged army division is being sent to the Kingdom”.

Going after the Foreign Office, Babar termed its condemnations against Houthi missile attacks as “nuanced statements”, alleging that the FO has been paving the way and providing false justifications for the development.

“The deliberately nuanced FO statements condemning the Houthi missile attacks as a threat to the Kingdom and Holy Mosques also seem aimed at justifying sending of Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia for active engagement in the conflict.”

“Has anyone given a serious thought to its grave consequences?” he asked.

Saudi Arabia has been demanding deployment of Pakistani troops since the start of the Yemen conflict in 2015, but Pakistan has been struggling to evade the demand despite a unanimously adopted parliamentary resolution affirming the country’s “neutrality” in the conflict.

Last year, Pakistan sent its retired army chief Gen Raheel Sharif to lead a Saudi coalition. Therefore, it was always speculated that the deployment would take place even though it could not happen as quickly as the Saudis wanted.

The ISPR insists that the new deployment and nearly 1,000 Pakistani troops already stationed there would not be “employed outside KSA”.