ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be accompanied by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on his visit to Saudi Arabia on Thursday, it was decided at Wednesday’s high-level huddle at the PM House.
The civil-military huddle chaired by the premier was to design a framework to meet Saudi demands and clarify Pakistan’s neutral stance on Yemen.
Apart from the army chief, the prime minister will be accompanied by Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Special Assistant to the PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry.
During the meeting, Nawaz welcomed the Saudi announcement of halting airstrikes in Yemen and entering the phase of political dialogue.
It was decided in the meeting that the prime minister would undertake a one-day visit to the Saudi Arabia tomorrow to discuss the evolving situation in Yemen and express solidarity with the people and leadership of Saudi Arabia.
The move comes a day after the kingdom announced an end to air strikes and moves towards a ground operation. A step that sources say have put Saudi Arabia in dire need of ground troops from all its allies.
Earlier, confirming his trip, officials in the Prime Minister House said the premier would clarify his government’s vague policy on Saudi Arabia’s demand to send troops for the Yemen operation.
The kingdom had asked Pakistan to join the coalition with Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif claiming Riyadh had asked for Pakistani troops, warplanes and frigates to join the military coalition seeking to quash the Houthi rebellion in Yemen. However, after days of discussion, the Parliament opted to remain neutral.
The civil-military huddle discussed whether Pakistan will meet Saudi Arabia’s demands of sending troops or not for Yemen operation as it enters the ground phase.
Officials in the PM house did not confirm any further details of the meeting and visit.
Just yesterday, Saudi Arabia declared an end to air strikes on Yemen, however, King Salman ordered the kingdom’s special forces National Guard to enter Yemen for ground operation.
Although Pakistan officially said that it would not jump into the Yemen fray militarily, it has not defined its support to Saudi Arabia about meeting its demands.
Further, PM Nawaz through his statement tried to clarify the unanimous stance of neutrality in a resolution of joint session of the Parliament following severe criticism from the Arab league, including UAE.
The premier tried to distance the government from an impression of neutrality but did not succeed.
In an attempt of damage control, the federal government sent a high-powered delegation led by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia.
Upon the Punjab chief minister’s return, the country’s top civil-military leadership held a meeting stretching for hours but did not categorically state either the government will meet the kingdom’s demands or not.
Instead, the government issued a rather vague statement and focused on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution on Yemen issue.
The UN resolution placed an embargo on provision of weapons and other support to Yemen rebels. But in its statement, the government did not define the country’s support to Saudi Arabia.
Earlier today, a Foreign Office statement welcomed Saudi’s declaration of end of ait strikes.