On the 2nd day of the joint session of the parliament convened to discuss whether Pakistan should join the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Houthis in Yemen, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured that the government would not make any decision without the approval of the parliament. There are two broad questions facing the parliament: should the country directly intervene and send its troops to Yemen on Saudi Arabia’s behest? Or should its assistance to the kingdom be limited to providing training, logistical support and territorial security? On the first question, there is a consensus in the parliament. So far, not a single parliamentarian has spoken in favour of going into Yemen, which ought to rule out the possibility of such happening. On the second question, the parliament is yet to evolve a clear response with most speakers reminding of the significance of the relationship between KSA and Pakistan, but falling short of presenting a clear stance on the scope and scale of the assistance to be provided. On this point, the discussion has remained static and ambiguous. For this, the government is partially responsible since it has not shared much information on the subject.

It would appear that the government is hesitant towards taking a clear stance on the issue. Instead of answering questions, including those raised by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan and Leader of the Opposition Khurshid Shah, the PM sought clear suggestions from them to decide Pakistan’s possible role in the conflict. It is understandably difficult for the PM either turn down Saudi Arabia or to accept its requests, which is why he appears heavily reliant on the parliament to share the burden. The government may consider acting unilaterally only if the military backs its stance, but even that would carry serious political implications. Therefore, it is most favourable for the government to rely on the collective wisdom of both houses, which would not only lend political legitimacy to its actions, but also enable it take difficult decisions against Saudi Arabia’s wishes and in the interest of the country. However, for that to happen, the government would need to be more open about what’s on the table. The PM on one hand justified Defence Minister Khwaja Asif’s ambiguous statement on the first day of the session and on the other, demanded solid suggestions from the parliament. He must answer questions. No real debate can take place without real facts. In any case, it is a welcome development that the issue is being discussed in the parliament and hopefully, that is where the final decision will be made.