Pak debates military support to Saudi-led war in Yemen
Islamabad: Pakistan said today that its close ally Saudi Arabia has asked for ground troops, warships and fighter planes to oust the Shia rebels in war-torn Yemen as lawmakers debate whether the country should join the conflict which has sectarian and domestic implications.
The special joint session of parliament has been convened as pressure is mounting on Islamabad to act swiftly in support of Riyadh. At the start of the session, defence minister Khawaja Asif moved a motion to discuss the crisis and whether to join Saudi forces’ military operations against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The minister in his policy statement said that Pakistan wanted peaceful solution of the Yemen issue through political and diplomatic means.
“PM Nawaz Sharif believes the subject merits in-depth discussion to help the government make the right decision on the crucial issue,” he said.
He said the prime minister is in close liaison with the neighbouring countries and has also visited Turkey in this regard and will also visit other regional countries for more consultations.
“Saudi Arabia has asked for combat planes, warships and soldiers,” Asif said.
Asif also reiterated Pakistan’s stand that in case of any threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Saudi Arabia, the country would come to the defence of its ally.
“Pakistan attaches great importance to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity. We will stand with our Saudi brothers,” he said.
Despite strong and longstanding ties with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is reluctant to join the war for fear of upsetting neighbouring Shia-dominated Iran.
Pakistan has called for a negotiated settlement to the crisis as it is wary of getting involved in any conflict that would inflame sectarian tensions among its own sizeable Shia population.
Asif also complained that Pakistan was fighting its war against terrorism “alone”.
“Pakistan is fighting this war against terrorism on its own resources. Pakistan is the only nation in the world that has taken terrorism head on,” he said.
Sharif who last week decided to hold the joint sitting was not present in the morning session due to his meeting with visiting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, angering opposition leaders who demanded that the session should be adjourned till the premier attends.
Earlier, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf attended parliament after a long boycott that started in August, 2014 when the party launched a protest against alleged rigging of the 2013 general election which it lost.