Pakistan’s Botched Foreign Policy on Yemen
by Hammad Qureshi
Last week, we saw a rather strange turn of events. It was the first week of April 2015, and as the heavenly season of spring descended upon Islamabad- the beautiful, a session of intelligent people representing the people of Pakistan was convened in the Parliament to discuss the on-going Middle East conflict. The parliamentarians who normally prefer resting in their mansions, decided to participate in this session with a strong cause. They wanted to make sure that the party in majority would not override their little grasp over the National Foreign Policy. Strange as it may seem, the people who attended the session had the least bit of knowledge regarding the topic under discussion. How the general public perceived the hastily called and even more hurriedly concluded session is as follows:
- First anomaly that was observed was that the PPP parliamentarians were in full attendance.
- Second anomaly was that the media’s 85% focus was suddenly directed towards the ongoing session.
- Third and the most baffling irregularity was that the PTI suddenly decided to return to the parliament after seven long months of self-announced holiday session, during which they spent a little over 4 months shouting promises of “change” and dreams of “Naya-Pakistan” from the top of containers, and the rest of the time reminiscing about it, as well as rejoicing over the grand Khan-Khan wedding.
It was surprising to see the parliament, which had not had complete attendance for an entire week since it was formed after the May 2013 elections, spring into action, that too, to discuss a topic that most participants had no inkling of. People talked. Orators made speeches. Intellectuals made attempts at proving their intellect. We young Pakistanis almost never saw such attentiveness from the Parliamentarians; neither did we witness such keen interest and eagerness to present their views on a single matter of Foreign Policy. And yet this time, the worst critics of Pakistan’s army were worried about the army and its security, the worst critics of terrorism stood up to favor the Houthi terrorists. People who know nothing about wars and strategic operations, stood up to knock some sense into generals who hardly know stuff about it.
We noticed the tom-foolery of smart people who spoke nonsense, nonstop. We saw some political geniuses of PTI advocating constraint in support of Iran in the name of Houthis. We saw the brilliant PPP parliamentarians suggesting peaceful resolution. MQM’s knights in shining armor didn’t fall back either, they charged forward with decent reasoning as to how Arabs are not our friends while Iran is a brotherly nation. The other parliamentarians from smaller parties also piped up adequately to make their wishes known.
This was not the first time a similar moment in history popped up, but was surely the first time the Parliamentary dignity was invoked – the outcome expected and dumbfounding!
The first time we got a chance to be part of a Muslim coalition force, first of its kind to fight against a common enemy of the entire Ummah – the enemy we know as “terrorists”. These terrorists have wreaked havoc in all Muslim lands and take their strength from the misguided and evil ideology of Takfeer.
Saudi Arabia, a very close and long time tested friend, undoubtedly the closest friend Pakistan has had a steady relationship with for over 5 decades, formed a coalition force to fight against this menace of terrorism . This is the new principled stance of the new Saudi ruler. He believes that fighting a militia of terrorists can be better done by forming a coalition, having all members of the coalition on the same page. Fighting terrorists alone is something many Muslim countries have made attempts at, but the terrorists find refuge in neighboring countries, re-group, and carry out terrorist attacks again. However, when they are choked by an entire coalition, their sustenance is effectively challenged and therefore can prove to be much more fruitful. If Pakistan would have requested such a coalition to annihilate these terrorists, KSA would have definitely offered complete unconditional support, given the close relationship between the two brotherly states. Nevertheless, Pakistan with its military might and prowess managed to warn the main stake holders behind the terrorists directly and did not require a coalition.
The Houthis however, have a different history. They were formed initially as an anti-government group in the early 90s. Then there was Al-Qaeda, which from time to time worked in direct collaboration with the Houthis against the Saudi regime. Together they emerged as an effective militia force that would reign in the then powerful yet corrupt President Saleh Abdullah. This same man, to add insult to injury, went to join this syndicate of rebellious militias with his own loyal militants when he no longer enjoyed the support of the Saudi Kingdom. And to make it more interesting, Iran used this opportunity to support an anti-government rebellion to teach the Saudis a lesson. Saudis have been dealing alone with the Houthis and their recent partners for almost three decades now, and they knew that if they went after the Houthis alone, Iran would cry wolf in the international arena and force the Saudis to halt any operations against the consortium of terrorists. Therefore, they simply had to form a coalition within the GCC, to ensure their operation against these rebels, radicals and terrorists could be carried out unabated. Given the circumstances and the implications of conducting surgical strikes in a neighboring land requires military might with proper intelligence support, neither of which the GCC is lacking right now. Why then did the GCC request Pakistan to participate in this operation? The answer is quite simple. But we will leave it for the readers to guess.
Fast forward to the 10th of April 2015, the first week of April passed by; and it seems a political autumn has already begun. The Parliament passed a resolution, that we shall standby and wait for the Houthis to strike back at the Kingdom before we agree to become a part of this war. After so much deliberation and futile blabber, this was probably the best our parliament could come up with. Kudos to them!
Whatever happened to “nip the evil in the bud” or “hit the terrorist in his hideout”. Didn’t we indirectly ask our Army Chief to warn Afghanistan after the APS attack? Did we not secretly hope that Pak Army would conduct surgical strikes on TTP hideouts and safe havens even if they were across the border in Afghanistan? Did we as Pakistanis not face enough perils of terrorism and its after effects for the past 15 years? Saudis have borne the same through the syndicate that organizes, operates and hits targets inside the Kingdom. Are we waiting for Houthis and their Al Qaeda friends to carry out an attack similar to our APS on the land of the Two Holy Masaajid? Or are we waiting that rebels and terrorists will sit down to talk? Haven’t we learned the hard way that there is no way of sitting down terrorists on the table or making deals with them, because they simply can’t comply, given the fact of their intrinsic disability of settling over a peaceful resolution of matters?
Now our Parliamentarians lectured us on finding a “peaceful” solution. They have probably forgotten that they made several attempts at negotiating with terrorists at home and making use of the opportunity, the terrorist monsters murdered our children in cold blood. Apparently, the decision to hit the Houthis, and to hit them harder than ever before, does not lie with the Pakistani Parliament. And the options of negotiating with them have already been exhausted by our trustworthy brothers, the Saudis, and this is the reason they are going after them with Typhoon Jet Fighters. Point being, the entire deliberation, was over a resolution that was as futile as the people who passed it. Our Politicians are as distant from the reality of this conflict as they were over the Pakistan Army’s conflict with the TTP over the past 10 years. And it is therefore only reasonable if their extraordinary intuitions are best ignored.
Now the question remains, if Pakistan should lend its expertise and support to the coalition, then surely it makes perfect sense. Pakistan assists the Arab coalition in taking out the terrorist associates in Yemen, and in return Pakistan takes the coalition’s support in establishing peace in Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan after so much blood has been shed since the 2001 invasion. The Muslim Ummah needs to unite against terrorists irrespective. Those that are opposing this unity are the real factors behind the divides of this Ummah, and obviously taking out terrorists in Yemen can in no way divide the Ummah. If those who claim to be part of the Ummah are in fact supporting Houthi terrorists, then they should be shamed in public perspective and the narrative should go against them in Pakistan and all Muslim countries instead of favoring them for backing terrorists in Yemen.
Having said thus far, I would like to make a note of something that grabbed plenty of media attention recently. A known official from the UAE, one Dr. Anwar Gargash threatened “Pakistan” and its well being by implying that Pakistan would have to pay a heavy price for being ambiguous. This implies two things:
- Dr. Gargash hardly knows how close the relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia remains; obviously this is the first time UAE is carrying out a joint operation against a foreign element beside the Saudis. This however is not the case between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Both their Armies have worked in perfect synchronization over a long time and Pakistani soldiers have not only bled or fought besides Saudis, but have fought besides the entire Arab world. Dr. Gargash should therefore try being reasonable and should think before he plants unnecessary sentiments between the people of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
- Dr. Gargash does not acknowledge what significance Pakistan’s being a nuclear armed state means. He definitely is unaware of the fact that the Parliamentarians showing apprehensions against partnering with the Arab coalition in this particular conflict, have never been responsible for Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Pakistan is the only Islamic country with nuclear armed missiles that can hit targets beyond 4,000km, and it remains a much more responsible nuclear power till date, despite having faced the wrath of the entire non-Muslim world for having developed nukes in the first place. If his trust in Pakistan is misplaced, then he should review his statements and elaborate what he is getting at.