Pakistan’s Botched Foreign Policy on Yemen


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:

  1. First anomaly that was observed was that the PPP parliamentarians were in full attendance.
  2. Second anomaly was that the media’s 85% focus was suddenly directed towards the ongoing session.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2.  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.

Discussion4 Comments

  1. There is no logic to going into Yemen. We’re not slaves of the saudis.

    Pakistan has its own internal threats that it needs to finish sorting out first. We’re making great progress against ttp and even mqm. We’re also now about to extend zarb-e-azb against the balochi terrorists. In fact we need to sort these out as quickly as possible b/c there is no doubt that india is itching to invade pakistan again. Remember, this BJP government is even more radical than the congress party. The congress party although it claims to be secular has consistently worked for akhand bharat and even though bjp hasn;t been in power as much we all know their ideology. Already our armed forces are stretched out and we have had to move soldiers away from the eastern border to confront RAW, cia and mossad backed khawarij. Going into yemen will stretch us out even further and weaken us militarily back at home. Perfect not only for india but also for TTP b/c it could give them breathing room.

    This will also have an adverse effect on our economy. Is there a guarantee that the saudis or the emiratis will compensate us fully? We don’t even know how long a war against the houthis will last. This is yemen we’re talking about, not pakistan. Our forces aren’t familiar with yemen’s environment. Even with all our experience, in an area which we consider “home-ground” it hasn’t been a walk in the park eliminating TTP. Furthermore, going into another nation always brings some animosity, especially if civilians are killed (as tons already have by airstrikes). The houthis aren’t “terrorists” like the ttp, al-qaeda or isis. They have the support of a major portion of the yemeni population including even sunnis among them.

    Going into yemen will get in the way of developing our relations with russia and it’s anti-imperialism allies and improving our relations with iran who btw is not only a neighbour but a neighbour that has proxies inside pakistan. What’s to prevent iran from showing us their displeasure by stirring up trouble?

    You contradicted yourself when you said (or technically strongly implied) that the arabs need us b/c of our experience and prowess in fighting militants and when you claimed that a combined force could be used to bring peace. The arabs also have nothing to offer us in the fight against ttp. If they need our help just to take care of something in their own neighbourhood how useful do you think they would be in afghanistan or pakistan? In Pakistan, we don’t need their help. They don’t know the environment. They don’t know the language. They don’t have the proper training to fight in the tribal regions and proper training is more important in this fight than fancy equipment that’s useless in the mountains. In afghanistan, you would be hard pressed to convince the afghan taliban to not overthrow the US puppet regime, combined islamic force or no. They might see it as a betrayal of their fellow islamic nations if we prevent them from overthrowing the US puppet regime. Now let’s put the US into the equation. A combined muslim force in afghanistan would naturally mean no american military presence. This is something that is absolutely unacceptable to the Americans. Their drug running operations would be curtailed. Their (and india’s and israel’s) funding, training and arming of terrorists in pakistan (TTP, BLA, BRA) will also then be curtailed. They would also lose control of afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth. They would lose the ability to use afghanistan to project power into central asia. So you see? There’s no way the american’s would allow a united muslim peacekeeping force. Heck, they wouldn’t allow a united muslim force for ANY reason b/c they know that united muslims means the end of their destructive operations in the muslim world. Also, I hardly think that israel would cheer a united force of muslims. And what israel wants the US gives it.

    If you are worried about relations between the arabs and pakistan then you’re being overly paranoid. The arabs, especially the saudis, know they need pakistan for their survival. Other than some cheap shots in the media they’re not going to sour relations with us.

  2. What nonsense sir.
    Iran is not reshaping the Middle East but the Zionists are. They have an Iraq in disarray a flattened Al Sham, A pro Israeli dictator in Egypt, A volatile disintegrated Lybia and are the very people advising India on destabilising Pakistan and creating Hindu settlements in Kashmir.

    Iran however is not white than white bit neither are the Gulf states and Saudia as much as we love them. It is they who has left Sunni Sham defenceless homeless and destitute by supporting a Zionist plot to overthrow a Alawite dictator. The Saudis and Gulf States supported the destruction of the Libyan state.

    While agree the Saudis have a genuine threat in Sanaa with the houthis that if unchecked will affect their sovereignty. Again the question arises who is creating these despotic proxies, these no state actors destroying the Muslim world and destroying the honour of Muslims and Islam worldwide.

    The threat from Iran is one of a defensive strategic Moce to create a smokescreen around Iran from a aggressive Israel and a beligerant unislamic proxies who call themselves disgracefully to be following the Sunnah.

    You can reconcile with Iran but have not recognised the real threat and this is a mobilised aggressive Israel.

    Today the Palestinians have no cover or defence from the Muslim world from the aggression and terror of Netanyahu and silence of Europe. No one stands in Netanyahu’s way apart from Iran.

    I have read today that Saudi Arabia is now willing to give air passage to Israel to attack Iran. This is uncorroborative but again if it’s true is another Saudi and Gulf state blunder.

    Do you think the Zionisy will rest with a disintegrated Iran alone. Offvourse not they see Madinah as part of greater Israel and seek a divided destroyed Pakistan.

    I write this as a Sunni asking All to have caution and revaluate the geopolitics at play. Sovereignty of Iran needs to be respected and any issue needs to be reconciled by a unified Sunni block agreed with stern wordings. Do not treat Iran as the sole problem but understand Iran is doing what any nation who sees long term threats. It is creating it’s smokescreen from not only Israeli aggression but a beligerant armed and financed terror network that regrettably calls itself to follow the Sunnah.

    Saudis and Gulf states wisdom and geopolitical strategy sadly is not formulated with the consent of a united Sunni block or Muslim block but through advisory channels in Washington.

    Pakistan and every Pakistani stands hand in hand with Saudi and if the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia is threatened than we will sacrifice our lives in the millions but we need sense and sensibility to prevail.

    The accusations from the Gulf States is very immature with little sympathy for the internal security threat that exists in Pakistan through armed terrorists waging a war with the state and people of Pakistan While they continue to court business in India our mortal enemy.

    India also has used the Sunni Shia rift to its favour in Balochistan and on he Pakistan and Iran border where is the Gulf stance on India destabilising Pakistan.

    Pakistan will support both our Gulf and Saudis brothers but right now it is wrong to engage in a battle in the Yemen and like Turkey offer the reconciliatory channels to allow Iran and Saudi Arabia and Gulf contingents the space to reconcile and resolve so that we can move creating a united Muslim front to destroy the Daesh in Iraq and Sham and restore normalcy in Yemen and support the Palestinians cause. Work to rebuild Libya and seek democratic return in Egypt. The Muslim world must equally stand with Pakistan in its struggle with India and support occupied Kashmir.

    It is a 2 way street not one way and solidarity in a Muslim cause globally is what is required to restore balance and honour in Islam.

    Iran and Saudi Arabia must reconcile and if that channel is Pakistan and Turkish it is a sensible approach. Pakistan has followed the Sunnah and stayed away from shedding muslim blood.

    You will argue why then is it shedding Muslim blood in Zarb e Azb. The difference there is the military and government has exhausted every channel for a period of 10 plus years and thus the war is justified as like ISIS in Iraq and Sham, Pakistan is taking the fight to the Daesh in Pakistan.

    So to summarise Pakistan has taken the mature and sensible approach to think oherwise is wrong.

    Nawaz Sharif’s statements however are very confusing but the Pakistani state has been very sensible.

  3. i am ashamed to c such open pro iranian and sectarian discourse arab world has been burning for a few years now in egypt morsi was toppled by a coup and 1000s of pro democracy supporters were massacred by the army we did not c the pakistanis condemning the same like this we did not c photos of graves or stories of al azhar students raped .yyyyyyyyyyyyyy……. in syria assad has killed 2 lac people with all kinds of war crimes including mass killings by torture chambers ……. chemical weapons .. barrel bombs but we never saw such a resolution against him or his iranian allies or shiite militias fighting for him i dont fathom this what has happened to pakistani intellectuals or is it that the left liberal has become a hypocrite who turns a blind eye to anything the iranians the bathists the ex soviet or the current russian clients do just c the no. of people killed in syria 2 lac in yemen 600 and c the reporting ……………shaaaaaame

    • Shaheen,

      Who is behind Morsi’s removal and the destruction of Sham and Libya?

      The very people seeking a Shia and Sunni conflict and no obstacles in Israels onslaught of the Palestinians.

      The same people who promote India as a force of peace and turn a blind eye on Indian terror in Kashmir and Pakistan.

      This is not a Shia and Sunni cause of conflict but incitement from else where.

      Shame on the fools who fall into the agenda of others. Shame and shame again to those who only view this through the paradigm of Sunni v Shia or visa vi and ignore the darker Zionist forces at work.

      The same blind sighted ignorance that allowed Pakistam to bleed for 10 yeas. The same blind sighted that led to a Muslim silence in fact support for destruction of Libya, Syria and the brotherhood in Egypt. The same blind sighted ignorance is at work over Yemen.

      Reconcile reconcile this is the Muslim way between brethren and unite.

      Learn from the Sahabee who did not go to war over a conspiracy to divide the Ummah after the martyrdom of Uthman.

      History keeps repeating and we fools sheeplessly follow the agenda of those who seek you divide to only turn on you like a pack of wolves.

      Shame on you all for blind stupidity.

      Do you “think” will not harm Saudi Arabia when they created a toothless Iran.

      Stick together, alliances however big he differences exist between muslims are honourable but alliances with “them” is a wider agenda to divide and destroy and hegemonise.

      This time they will not honour our sacred sites and seek to annihilate our history and places of worship everywhere.

      His is an even darker period than the time of the British and Imperialists who at least honoured the sanctity if Islam to a point.

      Wake up Ya Ikwhwanu wake up.
      Don’t point fingers at each oher but hold hands in a united front. Shame on you all who seek the death of innicent Yemenis by extending the conflict rather than ending it.

      “They” are creating to Daesh types one calling itself Sunni and one will be Shia and they will burn you all while “they” the real architects will set back and let you fools burn each other.

      Wake up from a fools sleep please.

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