Saving Yemen

Pakistan’s newly-appointed Foreign Secretary has a tough job. She’s supposed to make the personalised hodge-podge of Nawaz Sharif’s foreign dealings sound like coherent national policy. Picture this: While announcing yet again the inclusion of Pakistan in the Saudi-led so-called Muslim alliance, she reassured us that our government is working towards reducing tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Now that’s a hard one to swallow.

She didn’t tell us what the government had done to reduce the Saudi-Iran tension in the last year nor how it hoped to play the role of a mediator by joining one side. She didn’t talk about the dubious achievements of the so-called coalition of Muslim countries in its war against Yemen and the leading role played by the US in directing that war, choreographing the destruction of yet another beautiful country. She didn’t tell us what our inclusion in the coalition actually entails.

There’s no mistaking it: The government is bent upon pushing the Pakistan military deeper into this empire-driven coalition. At a time when we should be single-mindedly strengthening our military cooperation with China, Russia, Iran and Central Asian countries to stabilise Afghanistan, the epicentre of terrorism and instability in our region, when we should be focusing on internal and external terrorist threats to Pakistan, our government would like to send our soldiers to join the US-Saudi war against Yemen.

Clearly, at a time when the tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting to favour our freedom, Nawaz Sharif would rather slither back into old familiar grooves of subservience, singing songs of devotion to the House of Saud, swaying to the do-more imperial tune. The important question is: Where does the military stand on this issue?

With Operation Raddul Fasad in full swing across the length and breadth of the country and the volatile situation on borders with Afghanistan and India, can the military afford to get involved in the US-Saudi barbaric misadventure? As it is, other than their military duties, our troops are policing our cities and assisting the national census.

Remember: In 2015, at the time of its inception, the Saudis announced our inclusion in the coalition without our consent. The Saudi royals decided for us and didn’t consider it necessary to so much as inform us of our inclusion. Several other countries were taken by similar surprise. At the formal announcement, our flag was displayed in the backdrop among others and we were mentioned as a member country. The Saudis could take our prime minister, who is personally indebted to them, for granted.

Living up to its slavish reputation, the Nawaz government owned up the Saudi claim and put pressure on the military leadership to get involved in the Saudi-led war of aggression against Yemen. Focused on Zarb-e-Azab at that time, the military wisely declined to commit troops and convinced the government that Pakistan must play a mediatory role. As a bargain, I guess, the military leadership agreed to a ceremonial inclusion and promised to provide counter-terrorism training to coalition forces. It shouldn’t have done even that.

We should have stayed as far away from this devious distraction as possible. It is clearly a US-led initiative designed to disrupt regional cooperation rather than fight terrorism. Don’t we know that the US and its allies and vassals, including the royal GCC kings, are actively and jointly involved in spawning hordes of proxy terrorists and playing them as pieces of chess to foment chaos and violence in countries targeted for destabilisation and regime change; killing, maiming and displacing millions of innocent civilians and turning their beautiful cities to rubble?

We should not have agreed to even a symbolic role in this so-called alliance. Was it the rhetoric about protecting our holy places that melted the heart of the military high command? Or was it the keenness of Nawaz Sharif to get involved one way or the other to please his Saudi benefactors that won the day? Was it because of Saudi riyals? Or our oh-so-brotherly ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? What about the 40,000 Pakistani workers that have been deported from the Kingdom since we refused to join the war against Yemen?

Besides, what exactly does our contribution to the coalition amount to so far? This much we know: There are no Pakistani troops actively engaged in combat. We participated in a military exercise held in Saudi Arabia under the coalition’s umbrella and there’s been talk about joint military drills with GCC troops and training them in counter-terrorism. Have we actually trained any troops? How many? Should that be our priority? When we should be curtailing our token participation, our government would like to push us in deeper.

It certainly seems so. Why else would the foreign office spokesperson and the foreign secretary state something which has already been stated? Rumours about an entire military brigade being sent to Saudi Arabia are doing the rounds for a while now. The No Objection Certificate for General Raheel to head the alliance sounds fishy as well.

We haven’t heard anything from the General but the media is already presenting his appointment as a fact. Government officials talk about it as if General Raheel has no say in the matter and it is like sending a serving bureaucrat on deputation. There’s something amiss.

I hope General Raheel doesn’t cave in to the pressure and refuses the offer to serve the House of Saud and Uncle Sam in the name of the Muslim Ummah. I hope he insists that the alliance of Muslim countries be formed under the OIC umbrella. He has far more to give to Pakistan and the world than to be wasted as a pawn on the imperial chessboard.

I hope that Pakistan’s security establishment is not trapped into expanding the scope of its participation and role in the coalition and stays focused on settling Afghanistan in partnership with our natural allies in the region. I hope that it extricates itself from the Saudi coalition completely. And I certainly hope that the Nawaz government and the security establishment are not on the same page on this issue.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at

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