Given the political, racial and sectarian aspects of the war in Yemen, it is not surprising that Pakistan, along with Turkey, has decided to stay out of it. However, unlike Turkey, Pakistan has used a rare forum to take a major foreign policy decision, that is, debate and resolution in the Parliament. As the war in Yemen lingers on, Nawaz Sharif would continue to be under a lot of pressure from the Arab world, as was indicated by the disappointment expressed by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash and Chairman of the Arab Parliament in the Arab league Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al Jarwan in their comments on the parliament’s resolution. However, by relying on the authority of the Parliament’s consensus resolution, Nawaz can perhaps sidestep the entire war.
While the prevalent mood may be one of having successfully dodged a bullet, the fact is that Pakistan has pushed itself into a new phase in its democratic transition. This is the first high profile pronouncement made by the Parliament on a regional dispute. The fact that it ends up declining a Saudi request for military assistance in Yemen elevates it to the most pivotal aspects of Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs. Apart from China, Pakistan has not had reliably cordial relations with any of its neighbours. Relations with Afghanistan appear to have taken a turn in that direction in recent months. However, we continue to be suspicious of Iran and hostile towards India.
Notably, given the nature of Pakistan’s admitted and reported stakes in Afghanistan, the initiative really came from the amicable duo of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. However, as their recent high profile foreign engagements show, Iran and India are unlikely to warm up to Pakistan so nicely unless Pakistan takes the initiative. Historically, the foreign relations of most countries in this region were largely dictated by one or more superpowers, with reference to which they had to take a position. However, the world that is unraveling in the wake of 9/11 wars demands an absolutely grounded version of power, that is, the power of the people, as was recently remarked by former President Asif Ali Zardari.
Unlike their Arab brethren, the last two generations of Pakistanis have suffered enough at the hands of imperialism, neocolonialism, and sheer neglect to have a good understanding of the changing world. The Parliament’s resolution on Yemen –a surprise to most – is a stellar indication of Pakistan’s ability to cope with the newly emerging political order. The authority of the Parliament, once relied on in this manner with such consensus, is likely to take a life of its own. Notably, the Federal Government may need such authority to guide their approach and relations with Iran and India.