Senate chair grills defence minister on troop deployment to Saudi Arabia


ISLAMABAD: Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani expressed reservations over the briefing given by Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir to the upper house of parliament on Monday regarding deployment of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia.

The defence minister in his briefing, shed light on the cooperation between the two countries and the terms of engagement under which the troops will be sent to the kingdom.

Dastgir said that 1600 Pakistani troops are currently deployed in Saudi Arabia and 10,000 Saudi troops are currently receiving training in Pakistan.

He added that more than 1,000 troops will be deployed in Saudi Arabia over a few months’ time, bringing the tally of Pakistani troops deployed to 2,600.

While shedding light on the fraternal relations between the two Muslim countries, Dastgir said that the armed forces of Saudi Arabia were even present in the Defence Day parade in Pakistan last year.

The chairman Senate took the defence minister’s briefing with a grain of salt, calling it ‘inadequate’.

Raza Rabbani said that the briefing is not enough to satisfy the house and raises many questions.

‘Where will be the troops deployed? Will they be inside cities or on borders?’ said the chairman Senate.

‘What are the terms and conditions of the agreement?’ he further said, while in the same vein, offering the defence minister a camera sitting on the subject as well.

Dastgir, while giving a clarification, said that Pakistan forces have acquired new skills and will help in training and advising their Saudi counterparts.

“The apprehension that our troops will become entangled in the Yemen war is incorrect, we have clear rules of engagement,” said the defence minister.

He said that the current and future deployments will be within the remits of the agreement.

The defence minister said that Pakistani forces have acquired new skills at a huge price due to the ongoing war against terror and will help in training the Saudi troops against the challenges to the kingdom.

On Friday, Rabbani had summoned Defence MinisterDastgir to appear before the Upper House of Parliament with regards to the army’s announcement of sending troops to Saudi Arabia.

In the previous session, Pakistan Peoples’ Party Senator Farhatullah Babar told that the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), had said the troops’ contingent would be less than a division’s.

The senator said that the announcement was made following a meeting of the army chief with the Saudi ambassador in Pakistan.

The ISPR had earlier said that the troops to be deployed, or the ones already there, will not be stationed outside the Kingdom.

Last year, former Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif was appointed as the head of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition based in Riyadh.

The alliance includes 41 Islamic countries, excluding Iran, Iraq and Syria.

In November, the summit held its first meeting of defence ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially identifies as a "pan-Islamic unified front" against violent extremism. 

In his address, Gen (retd) Raheel Shareef had emphasised that the sole objective of IMCTC was counter-terrorism and it was not against any country or any sect.