- Defence Minister Khawaja Asif says Pakistan wants to play role of ‘facilitator’ in Yemen conflict
- Says country will not participate in any conflict that could further aggravate differences in Muslim world and in Pakistan
Federal Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told the National Assembly on Friday that Pakistan has not taken any decision as yet to participate in the Yemen conflict, saying that Pakistan has only pledged to safeguard the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on Saudi request.
He stressed on Pakistan’s role as ‘facilitator’ to end the conflicts in the Muslim world.
“Instead of aggravating the situation by participating in it, Pakistan should do what it can to prevent it ─ for the alliance and unity of the Muslim world,” the defence minister said. “Pakistan is ready to adopt whatever role is needed in order to facilitate the termination of conflicts in the Islamic world.”
“We will not take part in any conflict that could result in differences in the Muslim world, causing fault-lines present in Pakistan to be disturbed, the aggravation of which will have to be borne by Pakistan,” he asserted.
The request from Riyadh comes at a time when the Pakistan military is engaged in an operation against terrorists in North Waziristan. Asif’s reference to ‘fault-lines’ hints at Pakistan’s widespread sectarian conflict, as a result of which Shia and other religious minorities are targeted in tit for tat killings by Sunni extremist groups.
The defence minister’s statement comes a day after Saudi Arabia said that Pakistan will join its operation against Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, for a conflict that is rapidly escalating into a murky civil war. The minister’s announcement on Friday apparently rules out Pakistan’s immediate participation in the Yemen conflict.
“We want this issue to be resolved in a common forum where the Muslim world or Arab League is involved,” said the defence minister. “The need of the hour is alliance and solidarity, not division.”
“Division on the basis of religion or sect is rising in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Instead of conflagration or proliferation … It should be contained,” he added.
“I reiterate, this pledge is for the protection of KSA … if the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia is threatened then Pakistan will defend it.”
He went on to say that no decision to take part in the Yemeni conflict has been made by the government.
“We offered to visit [KSA] so we can assess the situation. The Arab League took up this matter, hopefully they will be able to resolve the matter in a forum. They can also take it to the OIC. We will see what happens in a couple of days. If we have to visit, we will definitely go there.”
Earlier, the Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Ahmad Shah said on the floor of the House that Pakistan should play its role for peace, particularly in the Islamic world, and should not take any sides in the war in the Middle East.
He suggested that a joint session of the parliament or an all parties conference should be convened to take any decision on the issue. He said foreign policy should also be reviewed to meet the present day challenges.