On Friday, a joint session of the parliament adapted a resolution against Saudi Arabia’s request for military intervention in Yemen. Although in a parliamentary democracy, debating and taking decisions on such key matters inside the parliament ought to be standard practice, but unfortunately, it is rare in Pakistan. It is not just the military establishment, which is to blame for undermining the parliament, but also successive civilian government that have struggled to overcome their own dictatorial tendencies. Perhaps out of necessity rather than free will, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has looked towards the parliament when faced with difficult situations. Earlier, he was rescued by a joint session when the PTI-PAT duo was attempting to oust him by hook or by crook, and now, another joint session has helped him shape Pakistan’s position on the Yemen conflict and shared the burden of making a difficult decision. If only the PML-N government’s enthusiasm for parliamentary proceedings was not reserved for bad days. The PM would do well to remember what they say about a friend in need.

While the resolution rules out the possibility of intervention in Yemen for now, it also “expresses unequivocal support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and affirms that in case of any violation of its territorial integrity or any threats to Harmain Sharifain (holy sites), Pakistan will stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudi Arabia and its people. The parliament has yet to clarify what it means by “violation of territorial integrity”. Does it imagine a scenario where a bunch of militants cross into Saudi territory like it happened on the Iran-Pakistan border a few days back? Or will this condition be fulfilled if Houthis launch a coordinated, full-fledged attack in Saudi Arabia? How plausible is the latter considering the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border and the discrepancy that lies in the military might of the opposing camps? Perhaps this clause has to do more with symbolism than operational possibilities. In any case, it is encouraging that the resolution stresses on relying on diplomatic discourse to contain and diffuse the crisis. But such will not become possible until Saudi Arabia and allies end their aggression in Yemen.