Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for a joint parliamentary session on April 6 following Saudi Arabia’s appeal for troops and logistical support from Pakistan to counter the Houthi rebellion in Yemen.
On Thursday, the premier asked President Mamnoon Hussain to convene the joint session to discuss the Middle East situation after a top-level meeting at the PM House, where the civil and military leadership discussed the proposals put forward by Saudi Arabia about the role of Pakistani troops and other related issues. The participants were briefed about the report submitted by a high-powered delegation, which visited Riyadh to hold talks with top Saudi authorities on the Yemen crisis and what possible role Pakistan could play in it.
According to an official communiqué issued by the PM House, Premier Sharif emphasised that all decisions would be taken in accordance with the wishes of the Pakistani people.
Although Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid claimed the government would decide whether or not to join the Saudi-led military intervention in the joint parliament session, sources said the session was just the first step towards meeting the Arab Kingdom’s requirements tactfully.
At the meeting, the leadership after weighing many options on how to deal with the Saudis demands concluded that Pakistan could not say “no” outright because of its social, religious and economic relations not only with Saudi Arabia but with the Gulf Cooperation Council also. However, the government will gradually and tactfully accept Saudi Arabia’s demands by using all available forums eventually.
The sources said the top civil military leadership also devised three tasks to be assigned to the treasury and some likeminded opposition lawmakers during the joint session. A rough draft of the outcome of a unanimous resolution from the session was also discussed.
The PM himself will run another parallel strategy to tackle the Saudi-Yemen issue, and will visit Turkey as a part of this, the sources said.
According to the Foreign Office, Premier Sharif will leave for Turkey on Friday (today). His visit to Turkey was decided during a telephonic conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 31.
The leaders will exchange views on the situation emerging in Yemen and discuss how the two countries can be helpful in addressing the issue.
To drum up support for Saudi Arabia and address public sentiments, the sources said lawmakers would be asked to highlight the Arab Kingdom’s decades-long services for the country.
They would also be told to shed light on the country’s Islamic importance because of its two holy places of Makkah and Madina.
The second point will be the selection of a few dozen skilful orators in parliament to apprise the lawmakers with the needs and requirements of Saudis for Operation Decisive Storm.
Under the third agenda item, the government will not give any firm commitment of not sending troops to Yemen. The treasury members will focus on the importance of sending troops only to Saudi Arabia, the sources added.
They said the participants were wary Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf might raise many questions but “some friends” would be able to handle the Imran Khan-led party just like other political parties to develop a consensus over a unanimous resolution.
The official statement from the PM House stated the meeting affirmed the following points:
(i) Pakistan’s national interest will remain the guiding principle of Pakistan’s policy;
(ii) Given the close historical cultural and religious affinities between the people of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it was reaffirmed that any isolation of Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will evoke a strong response from Pakistan.
(iii) 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2015.
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