Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Parliament should guide government on Yemen: PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Both houses of Parliament on Tuesday resumed for a second day a joint session to debate the crisis in Yemen and Riyadh’s request for military assistance in the Saudi-led operation...

Parliament should guide government on Yemen: PM Nawaz
ISLAMABAD: Both houses of Parliament on Tuesday resumed for a second day a joint session to debate the crisis in Yemen and Riyadh’s request for military assistance in the Saudi-led operation against Houthi rebels.

Leaders of political parties are presenting their stance on what role Pakistan should play in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, and how the country should respond to Saudi Arabia’s request for ground troops, fighter jets and navy ships.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif joined the session around noon.

Related: Saudi Arabia seeks jets, ships, troops from Pakistan: Asif

Farhatullah Babar opposes sending troops to Yemen

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Senator Farhatullah Babar urged the government to call an in-camera meeting to discuss issues related to the Yemen crisis that are suitable to be expressed in an open session being broadcast live.

He reiterated Senator Mushahid Hussain suggestion that Pakistan should learn lessons from the past before it makes a decision.

“Saudi Arabia is not under attack, Yemen is. I understand that, given our relations with Saudi Arabia, we cannot say a blunt ‘No’. But at the same time, we do not want to be part of a civil war. We do not want to send our troops to Yemen,” he said.

Babar proposed that Pakistan should instead aid Saudi Arabia in other ways.

“I propose that the government offers them training facilities, logistic support, intelligence sharing … (training for) warfare in difficult terrain, and medical relief,” he said.

“These are the kinds of areas in which we will be able to assist Saudi without going as far as sending our troops on the ground,” he said.

We do not want point scoring on Yemen issue: Shah

Opposition leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah said that they did not want any political point scoring on the Yemen issue. Shahd added that Parliamentarians were not in a rush to decide on the issue and urged that the prime ministers of Pakistan and Turkey should find a solution to the crisis.

PM Sharif wants Parliament to guide govt on Yemen policy

“We want Parliament to guide us on what policy should be adopted,” said the prime minister as he addressed the session. “The government wants to make its policy based on recommendations from Parliamentarians.”

Responding to Mushahid Hussain’s recommendation to involve Turkey in the peace process, the prime minister said that Pakistan was waiting on a response from the Turkish president regarding his talks with Saudi Arabia and Iran after which the next strategy will be formulated.

Responding to questions raised by the PPP’s Aitzaz Ahsen yesterday, Sharif said that there could be no further clarification on what has already been offered by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif.

"This is a sensitive issue. This debate is being broadcast everywhere, both inside and outside Pakistan, and we should be careful about choosing our words," said the prime minister.

Sharif told lawmakers that he did not want to "manipulate you to get a mandate".

"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," he said.

Sharif met his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara on Friday and said afterwards both countries wanted a peaceful resolution to the Yemen crisis.

Sharif told parliament today that he expected these diplomatic efforts quickly to bear fruit.

"We are actually waiting for an answer, which I expect will arrive by tomorrow," he said, adding that Turkey may send its foreign minister or convey the message by phone.

"We will see what we can do after that. We might visit other Muslim countries together."

Mushahid urges Pakistan to bring Iran, Saudi Arabia to negotiation table

“This is not a sectarian conflict. Any attempt to give it a sectarian colour would be a misstatement of facts. This is a tribal struggle for power which has now unfortunately become a regional proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed.

Hussain said that the Saudis have been Pakistan’s brothers, that there was currently no threat to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, or any other area of Saudi Arabia.

“It is not in the national interest to send our troops outside Pakistan. Unless and until we settle our own house in order, we should avoid becoming part of any other conflict,” he said.

He said that Pakistan has historically played a critical role in uniting Iran and Saudi Arabia, and that the country has also played the part of a mediator in resolving conflicts in the Muslim world.

“We have never got entangled in proxy wars or civil wars in the Muslim world. Yemen is like Afghanistan – it’s an un-winnable war. There will be no winners in this conflict,” he warned.

Hussain said Pakistan should ask China to push the UN Security Council to bring a ceasefire leading to elections in Yemen.

He said that Pakistan and Turkey should also host leaders of both Saudi Arabia and Iran and try to resolve the conflict that is fast changing into a regional proxy war. “We should give the right advice to our friends, whether in Riyadh or Tehran,” he said.

He said that if the country decides to step into ‘this mess’, there may be a fallout in Pakistan as well. “If we have to make mistakes, let us not repeat our past mistakes again,” he said.

Siraj sees conspiracy behind Yemen conflict

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief said he believes that the Yemen conflict did not start out of the blue, but was part of “part of the great game”.

“First Iraq was a powerful nation, their economy was stable. But then we saw how their nation was dismantled,” he said, pointing to towards a conspiracy behind the conflict brewing in Yemen.

The JI chief said that another war in the Middle East would benefit Israel.

“Wars only benefit those who manufacture and sell weapons. To fulfill our friendship with Saudi Arabia, we will have to save it from war,” he said.

He said that protecting Saudi Arabia's territorial sovereignty is not just Pakistan’s responsibility, but the responsibility of the entire Muslim world.

Yemen crisis does not concern Pakistan: Bizenjo

The second day of debate started with National Party (NP) leader Mir Hasil Bizenjo presenting his party’s stance.

“Whatever is happening (in Yemen) should be taken in the context of the Middle East. We have been discussing this as if it is our own country. The politics of the Middle East has changed since the Arab spring. A revolution has arrived in the Middle East; we cannot stop it,” he said.

“We respect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but Mecca and Medina did not come with the al Saud's. It is not our responsibility to protect them.

“If the people of Saudi Arabia stand up against their own rulers tomorrow, will we shoot them down? This is war between Yemeni tribes. Pakistan has nothing to do with it,” said the leader of the National Party.

On Monday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif briefed Parliamentarians in detail about Saudi Arabia’s request, the developing situation in the Middle East, and Pakistan’s policy so far.

The first day of the session was marred by political debate and sloganeering on the return of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers to the National Assembly after resigning from their seats seven months ago.

Monday’s session was also attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who joined when Parliament resumed after a break in the evening.

Also read: Joint session on Yemen marred by political debate