Yemen conflict: Is Pakistan neutral no more?

Published: April 17, 2015
A high-powered delegation led by Punjab CM Shahbaz was told by Saudi authorities that Pakistan must be “visible” . PHOTO: AFP

A high-powered delegation led by Punjab CM Shahbaz was told by Saudi authorities that Pakistan must be “visible” . PHOTO: AFP


Has Pakistan abandoned its policy of neutrality on the Yemen conflict that was approved by parliament? Whatever the truth may be, this was the sense gathered from the high-level huddle convened on the Yemen situation on Thursday.

Attended by top civil and military leadership, the meeting decided supporting the Saudi position, contrary to the parliament’s resolution that called for staying neutral and playing the role of peacemaker.

Unlike its earlier position, the Pakistani government appears now to have taken a clear position when it has backed the UNSC resolution seeking an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels in the war-ravaged Yemen. It has also expressed its concerns on the reports of foreign support – a clear reference to the neighbouring Iran – to the Houthis.

The apparent U-turn has been taken after a high-powered delegation led by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was told by Saudi authorities that Pakistan must be “visible” in supporting the kingdom’s stance on the conflict in the Arab Peninsula.

It is believed that Shahbaz, who is fluent in Arabic, was told by Saudi Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz that Riyadh still expected Pakistan to join the coalition of the Gulf states. The delegation, which returned on Thursday, briefed the civil and military leadership about the “unhappiness” of Saudi Arabia over Pakistan’s reluctance to join its fight against the Houthis.

‘UN resolution a cover’

The UNSC had adopted on Tuesday the Jordan-sponsored resolution seeking an arms embargo on the Houthis as well as a travel ban on their leaders.

The resolution called upon the Houthis to end the use of violence that undermines political transition in Yemen, to withdraw their forces from all the areas they have seized, including the capital Sana’a, and to relinquish all arms seized from military and security institutions.

Pakistan is exploring the possibility of using the UNSC resolution as a cover to extend support to Saudi Arabia, said a source. One option includes sending naval ships in aid of the kingdom and other Gulf states to deny transportation of weapons to the Houthis.

But does the UNSC resolution provide any legal cover for Pakistan to join the Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen?

“It does not provide any legal cover at all,” said Ashraf Jahangir Qazi, a veteran Pakistani diplomat who has served in key capitals, including Washington, New Delhi and Damascus. He was surprised over the omission of Saudi military action in Yemen in the UNSC resolution. “This will only hurt the credibility of the world body.”

But an international law expert, who is often consulted by the government on such matters, is of the view that the UNSC resolution seems to be “open-ended” and it is up to Pakistan how it will interpret it.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2015. 

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Reader Comments (8)

  • jamal
    Apr 17, 2015 - 11:30AM

    Saudi Arabian interests are deeply embedded across sections of the Pakistani media, as this article amply demonstrates. However, the army is working to a dramatically different calculus.Recommend

  • Salim Jan
    Apr 17, 2015 - 1:55PM

    we should support Saudi Arabia.A friend in need is a friend indeed.Recommend

  • Amir
    Apr 17, 2015 - 2:55PM

    petrol prices as well as crisis for Pakistan is at stake. How can PML-N refuse. Even army who is taking a stance currently will have to budge.

    It is an issue of Muslim countries, and I do not understand why Muslim countries work to find a peaceful solution. Maybe their own way of ruling is at stake? Their own people may in Libya, Egypt, etc.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Apr 17, 2015 - 5:43PM

    If Muslim Ummah is so much worried of its existence, why they did not form such a coalition for the independence Quds & Palestine ? do they not deserve more attention & support ? Recommend

  • ajeet
    Apr 18, 2015 - 4:52AM

    @ishrat salim:
    The ummah was always good at fighting women, kids and unarmed civilians, but when faced with a well armed foe as Israel, they run with the tails between their legs.Recommend

  • Hasan
    Apr 18, 2015 - 6:14AM

    Pakistan should encourage saudia to leave Yamen and Iran to leave Iraq Recommend

  • Apr 18, 2015 - 4:55PM

    The Yemen conflict has been a complicated one. The Yemen of Saleh always posed problems to the Saudi Arabia’s integrity and sovereignty. It never spared any moment to encroach Saudi Border, the Yemen of Rabbi Mansour Hadi stood between the Hooutis and the Saudi Arabians. Pakistan is in no position to act as mediator as both countries have common borders. The question arises as to : Can Iran ask the Indians to leave Indian-Held Kashmir? The truth of the matter is: Yemen and Iraq are two latest sanctuaries of what the Americans consider the potential terrorists terrains, which need to be eliminated to quieten the region in the interest of the countries of the region. But, it’s not easy to eliminate them as there are, on the one hand, Al Qaida’s dissidents who have vowed to settle their accounts with the Hooutis, and, on the other hand, the regional powers who want to run through both the groups. What happens will be clear as soon as the foreign diplomatic missions are evacuated.Recommend

  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Apr 20, 2015 - 1:23PM

    UNSC resolution is not unanimous in nature and it do not reflect the views of all members of United nation . The five members of security council has adopted the resolution just to curtail the fury of war in the region through arm imbargo but it in no way permits third party to bomb the terrotatory of Yaman or boot her land by Pakistan . Interpretation of UNSC resolution as the resolution of UN by Pakistan is going to create a situation in which several pending issues will be raised to be solved by all interested parties . Recommend

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