The government is studying different options on how to support the Saudi-led military coalition in its campaign against the Houthi rebels in strife-torn Yemen. And sources told The Express Tribune that a high-level delegation will apprise the prime minister of the modalities before leaving for Riyadh.
One option, according to sources, is for Pakistan to commit troops only for the territorial security of Saudi Arabia. The second option is putting Pakistani troops at the disposal of Riyadh for use both within the oil-rich kingdom and for special tasks in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia is said to have requested for one corps for three to four years. Sources, however, said that modalities were being worked out for sending a few brigades or divisions. One option under consideration is using the reservist cadre because the Pakistan Army is already stretched thin in the fight against homegrown terrorists.
According to their calculation, the army reservists, including troops, JCOs and commissioned officers, will make up a brigade-plus force, sources said. All these reservists are well trained and combat-tested. They can be sent to Saudi Arabia for a period of 3-4 years and the kingdom could equip them with arms.
The high-level delegation, which is set to leave for Riyadh anytime to assess the situation and discuss modalities, could offer Pakistani commandos for special missions in Yemen. Riyadh has already favoured the proposal. For this purpose, sources said, necessary paperwork has already been done and a detailed study was being conducted.
The delegation would apprise the prime minister of the outcome of their discussions in Saudi Arabia and only then the government would negotiate a formal agreement with the Saudi authorities.
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry confirmed in his Saturday night’s news briefing that the delegation, comprising Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz and senior military officers, would visit the kingdom most likely on Monday (today).
Some political analysts believe that Pakistan cannot reject outright the Saudi request for help due to economic, religious and social reasons. According to the foreign ministry’s figures the Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia is 2.1 million-strong, including 1.7 million on work visas. The government believes its refusal to help the kingdom would put the economic future of 2.1 million Pakistani families at risk, source added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2015.