Pakistan in a fix: Saudis demand logistic support and troops

Published: April 2, 2015
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Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz hold meeting with Minister for Defence of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. PHOTO: PPI

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz hold meeting with Minister for Defence of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. PHOTO: PPI

ISLAMABAD: 

Saudi Arabia is said to have sought both ‘material and manpower’ from Pakistan to deal with Houthi rebels who have taken over large swathes of land in Yemen in a rebellion against the government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The demand has put Islamabad in a difficult situation given the possible risks attached to getting embroiled in the bloody conflict in the Arabian Peninsula.

The formal request was made by senior Saudi officials in Riyadh to a high-powered Pakistani delegation, which wrapped up its two-day visit to the oil-rich kingdom on Wednesday.

The delegation, which comprised Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Premier’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz as well as representatives from three armed forces, held talks with top Saudi authorities, including Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz and Defence Minister Muhammad Salman bin Abdulaziz. The focus of discussions was on the current situation in Yemen and what possible role Pakistan could play in it.

Sources said Saudi officials gave a detailed briefing to the Pakistani delegation about the current situation in Yemen. They handed over a list containing details where Pakistan’s assistance is required. It is believed that Riyadh is keen to see Pakistan join the military alliance of Gulf states and take part in the combat operation.

Riyadh has not only asked for troops but also requested help from Pakistani fighter jets as well as navy vessels for logistic support. Arab News reported that the meeting discussed important issues concerning ‘Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen’ and assessed Pakistani participation in the Saudi-led operation to fight the Houthis.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the Pakistani delegation held ‘positive’ talks with Saudi authorities. In a message on micro-blogging site Twitter he said the visit helped the delegation to have better understanding of the conflict in Yemen and the concerns of the ‘Saudi brethren’.

The minister said they would soon brief Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the outcome of the visit. However, he would not confirm whether the Saudis formally requested for Pakistani troops.

Senior Pakistani officials traveled to Riyadh after Saudi King Shah Salman bin Abdulaziz telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week seeking Islamabad’s help against Houthi rebels.

While the country’s civil and military leadership agreed to extend all possible support to Riyadh to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, there is no decision yet whether Pakistan will join the Saudi-led military alliance.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s request, Pakistani is still considering options. One official pointed out that Islamabad was seeking a political solution to the Yemen crisis while if the situation arises troops could be deployed inside Saudi Arabia to safeguard its key strategic installations as well as the holy places.

Pakistan is treading a careful path as on one hand it does not want to plainly refuse the Saudi request while at the same time it is seeking to avoid taking any decision that might put its relations at odds with Iran.

Tehran has already expressed concerns over Pakistan’s possible participation in the Saudi-led alliance against Houthi rebels in Yemen. In an effort to ensure a balancing act, Premier Nawaz may himself travel to Iran or send his special envoy before taking a final decision on the Yemen crises.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2015.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • Tyggar
    Apr 2, 2015 - 10:54AM

    For Saudis, Pakistanis are cannon fodderRecommend

  • Apr 2, 2015 - 10:59AM

    Pakistan cant even outrightly refuse RSA. Best option in my opinion would be deployment of troops inside RSA to guard the country from any attack. We SHOULD NOT be a part of the offensive against the rebels in Yemen.Recommend

  • Hahahah
    Apr 2, 2015 - 11:28AM

    Boots on the ground…. why …because we are Sunni majority country. We have no right to do that to our shia population already they are cornered because of Saudi sponsored madarasas in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Anoni
    Apr 2, 2015 - 11:34AM

    Just stay neutral and assist them to defend their main land from attack. but shouldn’t be involved in the conflict itself Recommend

  • pakistani
    Apr 2, 2015 - 11:37AM

    iran has always back stab pakistan, so they shouldn’t accept any favors. Infact, If we have to choose between KSA or Iran, it should be KSA. Recommend

  • Vish
    Apr 2, 2015 - 11:57AM

    Masters never requests they demand! so no you have to play mercenaries role to fulfill your role to oblige the obligation (remember 1.5 BN on visit of Sharif) to pay back times….

    some days back I have rightly predicted that even Pak opt to be out of this conflict, the engulf / hurricane / whirlpool would take you in to its power directly or indirectly no option is left until you server the master

    Imagine your East you need to server Chinese [Do not think they are your all weather friend they are your Master at left hand and Arabs they are your right hand master even if you keep US the super master out of the loop..

    hope what ever above said should fail and Pakistan comes our of these fixing situation and lead a peaceful life. god bless youRecommend

  • Ali
    Apr 2, 2015 - 11:59AM

    Its a good time to say a clear ‘NO’ to the Saudies and further the operation Zarb e Azb inside Pakistan. This too will send a much needed message to the terrorists outfits inside our country that the new leadership is serious in combating the extremists and they should also not look upto any support from their backers inside or outside.

    The ultimate say will that be of the Army Chief and definitely not the PM.Recommend

  • abc
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:11PM

    The problem with us that we do not come forward straight and keep saying that we have nothing to do with it. Guys grow up you cannot look both ways. Recommend

  • Ashraf
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:14PM

    Great opportunity for Pakistan to join the Arab Ummah. Pakistan should make available everything at its disposal and in return seek 50% rebate on oil prices for the next 10 years.Recommend

  • army lover
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:17PM

    why should our brave sons and brothers serving in the Army die for SaudisRecommend

  • pk
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:26PM

    Tell them NO. Most people are against it here in Pakistan. The Chinese are AGAINST any invasion of Yemen. Thats their official policy. And they are investing near on $50 billion in Pak. We neither have the manpower, or the treasure to fight this war on behalf of the Saudis.

    If you get involved in the ME, you are going down a slippery slope. $1.5 billion is pennies relative to what will be spent trying to do the Saudis bidding. Ask uncle sam, they spend trillions in Afg and Iraq. Ultimately the Pakistani people will be left with the mess, not the PML-N.

    Tell the Saudis, ask SISI for manpower. They are building him a new city, and have given much more than 1.5 billion. They wont give Pakistanis any jobs in the GCC, as there is something called saudiaization going on, and is very active, Pakistanis are on their way out. Lastly, Saudi is a country which has anti-miscegenation laws in place, specifically targeting Pakistani men and women. That is a fact. Iran doesn’t, neither does Yemen, China, the US or even ISRAEL. So think about that before you call them brother nation..etc. Recommend

  • Waqar
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:29PM

    @Karachi:
    No one is attacking Saudi Arabia. It is Saudi Arabia that is attacking Yemen. Stationing troops in Saudi Arabia would be pointless. They want Pakistanis to risk their lives and military hardware to fight their war for them. That’s how powerful countries work. They make weak countries fight for them.

    Let there be no doubt that if we attack Yemen for the Saudis we’ll be going to war with Iran because the Houthis are Iran’s proxies. The Saudis want us involved precisely because they know the Iranians are not going to like having a hostile nation to their east as well.Recommend

  • pk01
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:34PM

    “Riyadh has not only asked for troops but also requested help from Pakistani fighter jets as well as navy vessels for logistic support.”

    I knew it. And then you have people on here comparing this to UN peacekeeping missions.

    Can you not see, you are cannon fodder for them. An invasion VIA north Yemen is unfeasible. THEY KNOW THIS. Ask about what happened in 09/10. Thats why they need Pakistani troops.

    Do not be bedazzled by the wealth on show in Riyadh. The only war these guys have ever seen is on a tv inside an air-conditioned McDonalds. They dont have a clue. If they need any help, tell them to ask the egyptians. Recommend

  • Goverment
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:36PM

    We should remember that more than 20% population in Pakistan is Ahle Tashi, and is in support of Yemanies. So be carefully, do not start somthing if you do not know its end. Recommend

  • shazia
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:39PM

    Gen Raheel Sharif, please say no. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:40PM

    Saudi’s have their own air force and army and they outnumber the Houthi rebels. Why can not they fight themselves? Although NS can not wait to dispatch the troops and show his loyalty to the Saudis but it is in our national interest not to get involved in their fight.Recommend

  • a PAKI
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:47PM

    Strong Delegation from Pakistan has gone to Riyadh. What an irony, they need help. And yet it us who have to go to there !! Recommend

  • Burki
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:48PM

    It’s not that difficult if Pakistan show some courage and play it’s cards in an intelligent manner. We can reap huge economic benefits by providing some ground troops and other military assets. And if India tries to raise some troubles on our eastern borders, we should ask SA and other GCC states to put severe economic and political pressure on India to curb it’s regional terrorism against Pakistan.Recommend

  • Khaptaan
    Apr 2, 2015 - 12:59PM

    To all inqalabis who are trying to potray this as sectarian issue just for the sake of criticism on gov. Here is a thing, You take some and you give some. Seems that defence is the only thing we are good at, this is the time to give back something. Simple as that.Recommend

  • Muhammad Shoaib
    Apr 2, 2015 - 1:16PM

    Why should Iran be worried about Yemen? Iran does not share border with Yemen and it had no influence in Yemen historically. Simply siding with Houthi rebels on the basis of them being Shia does not sound good. On the other hand Saudi Arab has historical, linguistic and cultural links with Yemen and it is its immediate neighbor; thus Saudi Arab has logical stakes and interests in Yemen to be defended. No Country in this world likes a destabilized and volatile country in its neighborhood; hence Saudi Arab, being the biggest country in that region, has all the rights to safeguard the legitimate government of Yemen and its own interest by restoring a stable and peaceful Yemen. Iran should also not worry about Pakistan aiding Saudi Arab because Iran refutes to be aiding Houtis-which means that Iran is not involved in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.Recommend

  • CReality
    Apr 2, 2015 - 1:38PM

    time to support the saudi friendsRecommend

  • Nopoint
    Apr 2, 2015 - 1:58PM

    ET very selective over which comments it accepts, then they want freedom of press, and will get some clowns to write a blog about it. Let your readers air their views, instead of being selective and picking and choosing.Recommend

  • James
    Apr 2, 2015 - 3:06PM

    @Karachi:

    Hope you mean KSA ?Recommend

  • Hunter
    Apr 3, 2015 - 4:35PM

    Pakistan should grab this moment, and ingratiate themselves to KSA. Great opportunity to rake in the moolah!Recommend

  • zar
    Apr 3, 2015 - 10:08PM

    No one has the right to demand your life in lieu of money. Be brave and say ‘no.’Recommend

  • Anon
    Apr 3, 2015 - 10:36PM

    All this talk that Pakistan is between a rock and a heard place have no weight. Pakistan can decide to send or not send troops to Yemen without any alarming consequences. Saudi and Iran do not hold much leverage over Pakistan. The reason this idea prevails among the populace is because the Saudis hold immense leverage over the Shariffs and the Shariffs are hesitant to comply because of the internal political consequences for themselves. The Shariff dynamics make it seem Pakistan is in a difficult position Recommend

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