Yemen Crisis and Pakistan

Fahad Bin Arshad

War is again knocking on Pakistan’s door, and this time it is not the usual USA, it is Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s close brother and aide. It’s almost a week the Saudi led collation is striking the Houthi rebels hideouts in Yemen. But now the situation is getting serious as the war is reaching the Southern border of Saudi Arabia and the clashes between Saudi forces and Houthi rebels have started. These clashed have resulted in Saudi forces casualties. Saudi Arabia is looking towards Pakistan keenly and need Pakistani forces to flush out the poise of Houthis in Yemen. But it is not easy for Pakistan to take this decision. Pakistani forces are already combating the terrorists in its soil in the North West province and the Pakistan army is at the verge of winning this decade long war. In this situation, taking decision to jump in to another confrontation is catastrophic. But it’s very difficult to turn down Saudis entreaty. The Prime Minister of Pakistan is heading meetings on a day-to-day basis, Pakistani political and military delegation visited KSA and assessed the situation. Although Nawaz Sharif gave some gestures to the nation that there is a close historical cultural and religious affinity between the peoples of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, endorsing that any isolation of Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will evoke a strong response from Pakistan. Our concerned authorities will stay engaged with their Saudi counterparts in this regard. There is a very clear message that Pakistan condemns the actions by non-state actors in Yemen to overthrow a legitimate government, and calls upon the warring factions to resolve all issues peacefully.

Furthermore, The Prime Minister emphasized that all decisions in the matter will be taken in accordance with the wishes of the people of Pakistan. To this end, the Prime Minister has advised the President to convene a joint session of parliament on April 6 (today). On the other hand Defence Minister Khwaja Asif said: “If there is any threat to the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia, then Pakistan will certainly defend it. We do not wish to fan sectarianism in the Muslim world as we do realise that these fault-lines exist in Pakistan too.” The message is clear Pakistan is going in this war.

The Middle East media claimed that the Pakistan political and military delegation who was in Saudi Arabia few days ago, assured the Saudi authorities that Pakistani troops would be sent to Saudi Arabia and a formal announcement in this regard would be made by high-ups once the delegation returned home. According to the Arab media, following the meeting of Pakistan high-level delegation with Saudi authorities, it was decided that the Pak Army would launch a joint operation with the Saudi Army against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The western papers are also confirming the things, On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Pakistani and Saudi forces were carrying out a joint exercise near the Yemeni border”, which was later confirm by tweet of DG ISPR, that the military exercises, titles Samsaam, are in accordance with the schedule and started on 19th of March in Saudi city of Taif. 292 officers of Pakistan army have taken part in these exercises. Major General Bajwa said that these were not operational appointments of Pakistan army in Saudi Arabia. He said that these exercises are held annually and last year they were held in Jehlum.

As the news are spreading in the media of Pakistan’s involvement in the war, the flash back is seen in Pakistan. There is very strong Shia community in Pakistan, according to different surveys, from every five person there is one shia in Pakistan and these shia have very close affections with Iran. According to different media reports, of all the terrorist attacks carried out in Pakistan this year, over 80 per cent have been sectarian in nature – based on claims of responsibility by the militants.

Shia groups in Pakistan said the country should stay out of the Saudi war and should not provide any backing to the oil-rich kingdom, which they accuse of spreading radicalism throughout the Muslim world.

But the other side of the picture is more influential, Sunni backed group Jamat u dawa Islamic organization chant slogans in support of Saudi Arabia over its intervention in Yemen, Jamiat ahl-e-Hadith political party also support the Saudis military intervention in Yemen.

Saudi request is a bowl of poison which Pakistan have to take. It is problematic for Pakistan to turn down the request of Saudi Arabia, as there are millions of his citizen working in Gulf countries and sending foreign exchange back home. On the other hand Prime Minister Sharif has long enjoyed close relations with the Saudi royal family, we have to remember that after his second term as prime minister was ended by a military coup in 1999, he was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia and he was there up to ten years.