Pakistani troops sent to Saudi after rules of engagement clarified: Dastgir

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ISLAMABAD: A day after the military announced the deployment of Pakistan Army troops to Saudi Arabia for a training and advisory mission, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir said the final decision was taken after the rules of engagement were clarified.

“Negotiations were ongoing regarding the rules of engagement, and once we attained clarity on the issue that the troops will be on a training and advisory mission to strengthen the ground defence of Saudi Arabia, the troops were sent,” said the defence minister while speaking on Geo News programme ‘Naya Pakistan’.

He elaborated that Pakistani troops are needed to better train and advise Saudi troops as the country has come under repeated missile attacks from Yemen’s Houthi militia.

When asked how the Pakistani forces will assist in stopping the missile attacks, Dastgir said, “we will not be giving them air defence”.

“We only want to train their forces and better advise them. The areas bordering Yemen are mountainous, and as Pakistan’s army is highly trained in mountain warfare, we will train and advise them.”

‘US using task force for political means’

Regarding the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) watchlist, the defence minister said it was the first time that the United States was using it to further political aims as the organisation has existed for decades.

“This is the first time the US is using the task force for political means to pressurise Pakistan.”

He said that the country was added to the watchlist in 2012, and when the PML-N government came to power in 2013, “it took measures due to which Pakistan was removed from the list in 2015”.

When asked why other European countries, which are deemed to be friendly towards Pakistan including the United Kingdom, are supporting the motion, the defence minister said countries bargain with each other on international forums and in this case, the countries thought that the political cost would be less when compared with the benefits of better relations with the US.

“We have to act according to law, and where needed laws were drafted and implemented upon.”

He added that the US has chosen to pressure Pakistan economically before it takes any other measures.

Dastgir further elaborated upon diplomatic measures taken by Pakistan to counter the latest American move and expressed hope that the financial action task force can be restrained to its official mandate instead of becoming a tool for political pressure.

“It will be unjustified to add Pakistan again on the watchlist as matters have improved further after 2015.”

Following Thursday’s announcement, the ISPR explained that the troops to be deployed, or the ones already there, will not be stationed outside the Kingdom.

The ISPR said that the military contingent is part of the ongoing Pakistan-Saudi bilateral cooperation, under which a number of Pakistani troops are already stationed in Saudi Arabia for advisory roles.

However, the number of troops being deployed at present has not been disclosed.

“Pak Army maintains bilateral security cooperation with many other GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and regional countries,” the ISPR had said further, in a perceived assurance to Iran and Turkey owing to the hostile relationship of Iran with Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s siding with Qatar in its conflict with Riyadh and other GCC countries.

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