ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan is “not in a hurry” to decide whether to join the Saudi-led coalition against rebels in Yemen as Parliament resumed discussion on the issue.
The premier addressed a joint session of the Parliament a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif revealed Saudi Arabia wanted Pakistani warplanes, warships and soldiers. Not a single lawmaker has spoken in favour of sending troops.
Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's main Sunni Muslim power, has asked Pakistan to join a Saudi-led military coalition that began conducting air strikes last month against largely Shia Houthi forces in Yemen.
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif begins a two-day visit to Pakistan on Wednesday and discussions on Yemen are expected to dominate the meetings. The premier also said he welcomed Iranian input.
“Iran should also join the discussion and evaluate whether their policy is correct or not,” PM Nawaz said.
The premier has repeatedly said he will defend any threat to Saudi Arabia's “territorial integrity” without defining what threat that could be, or what action he would take.
Session adjourned until tomorrow
The joint session of the Parliament has been adjourned until 10:30 am tomorrow.
Farhatullah Babar speaks as session resumes
"I appreciate that this parliamentary session was called and it was a good gesture for the PM to be here on both days," says Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) representative Farhatullah Babar.
"The situation in Yemen is a war between different tribes. Saudi Arabia was not attacked; it was Yemen," he says.
"We should not repeat the mistakes we committed in the past; these issues were discussed earlier. Let's try and move forward as indicated by the PM when he asked the House to give concrete suggestions on how to respond to Saudi Arabia's request."
Babar says no one would refuse Saudi Arabia's request outright, but there was a consensus that Pakistan did not want to be part of a distant war in civil lands.
"We have a security agreement with Saudi Arabia and some troops are present there but they have not been mandated to go and fight in Yemen."
He says Pakistan could help Saudi Arabia in the areas of logistical support, intelligence sharing, medical support and helping troops in mountain warfare.
Babar says Pakistan should step up dialogue with Iran and clarify that its assistance to Saudi Arabia was not against Iran's interests.
The PPP representative underscores that Pakistan has the largest number of troops in United Nations' peacekeeping operations. He proposed that Pakistani troops in UN peacekeeping operations should be utilised for ensuring peace in Yemen under the UN banner.
He ruled out Pakistan's participation in the Yemen conflict under the Pakistani flag but said that participation under the UN banner was a distinct possibility.
Khursheed Shah urges for reasonable solution to Yemen conflict
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah says that parliamentarians are not in a rush to decide on the Yemen issue today. "But we want that the prime ministers of Turkey and Pakistan should find a reasonable way out of the fire raging in Yemen," he says.
The session was adjourned for 20 minutes for Zuhr prayers.
What stance should Pakistan take, PM asks lawmakers
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif started his address in the Parliament by appreciating Senator Mushahid Hussain’s speech.
The premier addressed Senator Aitzaz Ahsan’s concern that Defence Minister Khawaja Asif did not divulge enough details about Saudi Arabia’s request to join the Yemen offensive by saying that if more information had been divulged than needed, it would not have been “suitable”.
“It is a very sensitive matter,” the PM said. “I think we should take all precautions."
The PM further said that his government is not there “to win the mandate with malpractice” but that it is seeking genuine opinion of parliamentarians on Yemen.
“Take your time, we are not in a hurry, we will take all your good points and I want the parliament also to say something about demands of our friends, “said Sharif.
The premier disclosed that his government plans to formulate a policy based on “good suggestions” by parliamentarians.
Referring to the suggestion that Pakistan should contact other countries regarding Yemen, the PM said he is currently waiting for a statement from Turkey, which is expected by tomorrow after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
The PM also said that Turkey has promised its Foreign Minister to Pakistan Naci Koru to brief on their stance.
He said that the stance of Pakistan and Turkey on Yemen has been very similar so far and after knowing their statement, the prime ministers of the two countries may also consult other countries including Malaysia and Indonesia.
Yemen conflict not sectarian issue: Senator Mushahid Hussain
Senator Mushahid Hussain says the conflict in Yemen is not a sectarian issue. He stressed that it is a Middle Eastern proxy war between Iran and Gulf power Saudi Arabia.
|Senator Mushahid Hussain. — DawnNews screengrab|
"We feel indebted to Saudi Arabia for their support in the past," he says, adding that if there is a threat to Saudi Arabia's territorial integrity, Pakistan will have no qualms standing by their side.
He, however, says that Pakistan should avoid getting entangled in the Yemen conflict as it was not her war to fight.
"Yemen is like Afghanistan. It is unstable. It is like a quicksand, nobody can come out of this... there will be no winners in this conflict."
He further says, "We should ask our Chinese friends to ask for a ceasefire in Yemen in the United Nations and for holding dialogue and fresh elections".
Mushahid says Pakistan was fighting a major offensive in the northwest and it could not afford to send ground troops outside the country as the army's first responsibility was to protect the lives of Pakistanis.
He says Russia and Pakistan should co-host Saudi Arabia and Yemen for negotiation, adding that a ceasefire should be called for in the United Nations.
Involvement in Yemen conflict will lead to sectarian divide in Pakistan: ANP leader
|Senior lawmaker of the opposition Awami National Party (ANP) Ghulam Ahmad Bilour. — DawnNews screengrab|
Senior lawmaker of the opposition Awami National Party (ANP) Ghulam Ahmad Bilour says that instead of sending troops to fight the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role.
He underscores that Pakistan should stay out of the war, adding that its involvement would only lead to a greater sectarian divide in the country.
Yemen conflict needs to be resolved in Yemen: JI chief
|Jamaat-i-Islaami chief Sirajul Haq. — DawnNews screengrab|
Echoing Bizenjo, Jamaat-i-Islaami Chief Sirajul Haq also says that Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role in Yemen.
He says Pakistan should prevent Saudis from waging a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
He termed the Yemen situation as part of a bigger game and said all Arab countries are burning in turmoil.
The JI chief appreciates Pakistan, Iran and Turkey's efforts for peace to resolve the Yemen conflict.
"We are ready to go to every country in the Muslim world and provide support – if the government takes a step for peace, the entire assembly is with them."
Pakistan should play reconciliatory role in Yemen: Hasil Bizenjo
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, National Party (NP) President Hasil Bazenjo says Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role in Yemen instead of becoming an ally.
Bizenjo, whose party is an ally of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz, says there are new alliances in the Muslim world.
PTI not welcomed in joint opposition
The Pakistan Peoples Party-led opposition (PPP) in the National Assembly decided not to welcome Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PT) in the joint opposition.
"PTI would sit on the opposition as an independent party, not part of a grand opposition," Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed tells media representatives in his chamber.
He castigates PTI Chief Imran Khan for declaring assemblies as bogus and says that after returning to assemblies, Khan should have avoided such remarks.
"This shows double standards of PTI chief," Shah remarks.