As Pakistan’s highest powered delegation returned from a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia questions still abound, including the most basic ones – what was the purpose of the trip and what was achieved, if anything was achieved at all? These questions are all the more important given the context; in the middle of full blown diplomatic crisis in the Gulf where the vast majority of public opinion is urging neutrality and conciliation. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Chief of Army Staff, and Finance Minister visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for reasons unknown.

These reasons must be explained, and the National Assembly’s demand for the Prime Minister to brief the house on the trip is a reasonable one that must be met.

While the executive usually handles diplomatic outreach on its own, it is justified for the National Assembly to demand oversight in this case. Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has always involved an element of military cooperation, and Pakistan has been forced to unwillingly adopt the kingdom’s stance in the Middle East on many occasions. The compulsion backed by economic support has caused problems in the past and continue to do so; Pakistan was included in the coalition against Yemen without its consent and only the intervention of the parliament kept it out of an unnecessary and deadly war. Similarly Pakistan had little say when the Saudi led “anti-terrorism coalition” morphed into an anti-Iran league. Considering the increasing polarization around the Qatar crisis, it is to be expected that Saudi Arabia will try to include Pakistan in its embargo of the Gulf state.

With both the military and Nawaz Sharif beholden to the Saudis, the job of checking partiality falls to the parliament; a role that it has performed admirably in the past.

The Prime Minister needs to provide a clear and frank account of the conversations with the Saudi King and provide details on the stance adopted by the kingdom. There is a discrepancy between the statements coming from both parties that are troubling; Nawaz Sharif talks of “Umah solidarity” while the Saudis of “combating terrorism”. Both are on the opposite end of the spectrum considering the context.

The opposition has even guaranteed that there will be no politicking or sloganeering during Prime Minister’s briefing - a worthy move that underlines the seriousness of the situation. It is time the government does the same and takes the Parliament on board.