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Mr PM…Please Say No to Proxy War

Pakistan has now formally been asked by the Saudi Government to join the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi insurgents in Yemen. Saudi authorities has requested the military intervention of Pakistani ground forces, air and naval power against the Houthi tribes. It is clear that Saudi Arabia is looking for ‘proxy warriors’.  It is asking for the support of the countries it has helped financially and diplomatically in the past. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appears to be keen to push Pakistan into yet another proxy war. After all Nawaz owes Saudis a lot. He was salvaged and given asylum by the Saudi government after his government was overthrown by the military in 1999.

Ironically, Prime Minister prior consulting his cabinet or the Parliament vowed on several occasion that ‘he will defend any threat to Saudi Arabia`s “territorial integrity”.  However, one of his cabinet’s Minister (Riaz Hussain Pirzada) has already accused the Saudi government of creating instability across the Muslim world, including Pakistan, through distribution of money for promoting its extremist dogma.

PM Nawaz has miserably failed in his efforts to gain support from the opposition parties to send Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia. After making the empty statements of Saudi support he has now asked the Parliament to debate the issue as a face saving measure. The Parliament appears to be baffled on the matter as government has not yet laid down any clear strategy of the ‘proposed military intervention’. PM Nawaz has further increased the frustration of the Parliamentarians by stating  that no further details could be shared with the Parliament over the government’s talks with the Saudi authorities over Gulf crisis, stating that it would be “inappropriate” to delve into details of talks “owing to the sensitive nature” of the issue. Someone should ask him if you are that ‘cautious’ why you are debating the matter in the Parliament. Why don’t you send the Army to Saudi Arabia with an executive order rather using the Parliament as a rubber stamp?  Do you want parliament to just engage in a non-constructive debating and listening exercise?  How Parliament is supposed to reach an informed judgment about this important matter of national security?

Although Pakistan consistently receives an injection of easy cash from Saudi Arabia. It received $1.5 billion in aid from Saudi Arabia last year to meet debt obligations and boost its foreign exchange reserves. But we must not forget that Pakistan is still affected from the consequences of proxy war against the USSR, waged by America. Although during proxy war against USSR Pakistan received $3.2 billion for six years as committed by President Ronald Reagan but this proxy war lead to many unwanted social and political consequences.

Pakistani armed forces are indeed very capable, professional and wel-trained, but Pakistan can’t afford to send them aboard as a third of our troops are busy in operation Zarbe Azb. Due to unprovoked military tension with India, a bulk of the armed forces has to be deployed on Indo-Pak borders. So sending troops abroad may not be a wise military option for Pakistan.

Iran is generally alleged to have trained Houthi fighters and supplied arms since the insurgency began. It is very clear that Yemen has become a part of region-wide struggle for power and influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This struggle clearly reflects the Sunni-Shia rupture across the Muslim world. Pakistan decision to join Saudi-led coalition may inflame Pakistan-Iranian tensions and get Pakistan involved in a broader Sunni-Shia conflict. Pakistan should say no to Saudi proxy war as Pakistani involvement in Yemen could be dangerous for it, both militarily and politically.

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