It is odd that in a joint parliament session convened to discuss the open-ended question of Pakistan’s involvement in the Yemen conflict, the Defence Minister, Khwaja Asif, opened the proceedings with a written statement. A predetermined statement in itself would not have been an issue had it not read like a press release; vague, full of rhetoric and stocked with appeasing political phrases. How can the government expect to have a debate on going to war at the request of another country if it fails to tell the parliament the number of soldiers required, where they will be deployed, where will they be drawn from, and what is going to be their job? The only thing that set his address apart from previous press releases was the information that the Kingdom wanted “combat planes, warships and soldiers”. Predictably, the rest of the session was spent criticising the government’s unclear stance, before it descended into political mayhem – another thing the Defence Minister is partly responsible for.

The session has been adjourned till Tuesday, and much of the debate is still to come. Yet so far the only contributor to the debate has been the opposition. Apart from pointing out the government’s unclear statement, the opposition questioned their stance on the Yemen crisis itself; how does the government justify the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels? So far the government has skated over the issue, only focusing on the intervention’s effect on Pakistan, not its legitimacy. This question is an important one to consider, if the government intervenes in Yemen without the United Nations Security Council’s authorization or a principled stance, what separates it from countries like the United States, Israel or Russia; all of whom the government has heavily criticized for regional aggression in the past. If the government truly wishes to seek the parliament’s – and by extension, the people’s – permission before embarking on this quest, it must provide solid facts, principles and details in the next session.

However, the government’s sincerity in the exercise does seem wanting. Arabian news channels and officials continue to firmly maintain that Pakistan is part of the coalition. Pakistani sources continue to assert that preparations for deployment are already underway. The most telling factor is the Defence Minister’s behaviour during the whole session. Despite being charged with the responsibility to present the government’s case and to seek a quick consensus, he unleashed a fiery tirade at the PTI Chairman, which turned the parliament into a political circus, diverting further from the issue at hand fragmenting any possible consensus.