ISLAMABAD - Opposition lawmakers in both houses of the parliament on Friday blasted government’s move to send Pakistani soldiers to Saudi Arabia, ignoring the joint resolution of the parliament barring sending any troops to the Kingdom.
Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani summoned Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan for a policy statement on the issue.
The lawmakers belonging to major opposition parties in National Assembly proceedings sought reasons from the government for sending a “contingent of troops” to Saudi Arabia without taking the parliament into confidence.
The MNAs from two opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, demanded proper response from the concerned minister to share details of this new development.
PTI’s Shireen Mazari drew the attention of the house towards the new development regarding sending of Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia.
“Why the parliament was not taken into confidence about this new development,” asked Mazari on a point of order. She demanded clarification from concerned ministry on the matter.
Mazari further reminded the house that the Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Asif had also not shared the details of the ToRs about the Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) with the parliament despite assurance.
“Raheel Sharif joined the Islamic Military Alliance but parliament has not been taken into confidence yet,” she said.
Minister for Defence Khawaja Asif had informed the house that the terms of reference (ToRs) and contours of the alliance would be placed before the House before taking a decision to join the alliance.
The PPP’s Nafeesa Shah, raising similar concerns, on point of order, said that the government should have informed the parliament. “It is a serious matter, as [a] contingent of troop is being sent to Saudi Arabia without taking [the] parliament into confidence,” the PPP’s MNA said.
Giving reference of a news published in the local media, she said the media reported that the troops would be sent to Saudi Arabia. “This important decision should be shared with the house,” Nafeesa Shah said.
She further raised concerns over human trafficking issue in the Pakistan.
“Pakistan has jumped to third place in ranking on human trafficking issue, which is matter of serious concern,” she said.
Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani summoned Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan for a policy statement on the announcement of the army to send troops to Saudi Arabia, after a senior Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker raised objections over the deployment, calling it contrary to the joint resolution of the parliament.
“The [Senate] Secretariat is directed to issue notice to defence minister to take the house into confidence on Monday…There is a joint resolution of [the] parliament that Pakistan will not send troops to Saudi Arabia to fight against Yemen,” ruled the chair.
Earlier, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, on a point of public importance, raised objections over the Thursday’s announcement of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) — the media wing of Pakistan army, that army was deploying troops in Saudi Arabia under the existing bilateral security agreement.
The army in its announcement made it clear that soldiers would not be deployed outside the kingdom.
“In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to [the] KSA on training and advice mission,” the ISPR said.
Referring to the ISPR announcement, Senator Babar said that the announcement came after a meeting between the army chief and the Saudi ambassador in Islamabad, which was preceded by a recent three-day visit of the chief, the second in two months, undertaken to Saudi Arabia during which he also met Crown Prince Salman and Saudi military commanders.
He said that the ISPR had not divulged the exact number of troops being dispatched to Saudi Arabia but when asked, it said that the deployment would be less than a division.
“This is an indication that almost a full-fledged army brigade or around a division is being sent to the kingdom,” the senator said.
Babar said that the matter was grave in nature as the Yemeni allies of Saudi Arabia were losing the internal political battle because of internal fighting and the air campaign, and as blockade by Saudi Arabia suffered a backlash. This provides a disturbing context, he added.
The PPP senator said that the deliberately nuanced Foreign Office statements recently condemning the Houthi missile attacks as threat to the kingdom and holy mosques also seemed aimed at justifying sending Pakistani troops to actively engaging the Yemenis in the conflict on the side of the Saudis.
“Has anyone given a serious thought to its grave consequences,” he questioned.
Reminding the Parliament’s unanimous resolution that sought that “Pakistan should maintain neutrality in Yemen conflict”, the PPP senator asked who was making unilateral decisions bypassing the parliament and to the detriment of the country.
In April 2015, the parliament, through a joint resolution, had refused to send troops to the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, and thus making it difficult for Saudi Arabia to build a broad coalition for a possible ground offensive.
MOCK EXERCISES NOT AGAINST ANY COMMUNITY
Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry, responding to a calling attention notice, said that mock exercises were conducted in different areas to prepare and train the security personnel for operations against terrorists.
About questions regarding alleged targeting of Pashtuns, the minister said that there was no biased attitude against Pashtuns. The exercises are not aimed at targeting any community, he said.
The house witnessed thin presence on both sides of aisle throughout the day.
The PTI’s dissident member, Ayesha Gulalai, at the fag end of the proceedings, wanted to speak on a point of order but the house was adjourned abruptly, after PTI’s Dr Shireen Mazari pointed out lack of strength in the house.
PTI’s Munaza Hassan said that she had also submitted calling-attention notice in the National Assembly Secretariat on human trafficking issue.
“My calling attention notice should also be added in the agenda item,” she said.
Opp MPs assail govt for sending troops to KSA