It was a groundbreaking announcement that the army made on Thursday, when it informed the public that the army is deploying troops in Saudi Arabia under an existing bilateral security pact. In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to KSA on training and advice mission.

The severity and complications of this decision cannot be understated, and can be seen by the impact this announcement created. There was outpour on social media, and Senator Farhatullah Babar harshly condemned this action, calling the development as “tantamount to bypassing the parliament”.

And “by passing the parliament” it was. The internal battle to keep Pakistan out of any foreign proxy wars is one that has been since 2015, since Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Terror Coalition included Pakistan, whose leaders never officially agreed to join. Since then, our elected representatives have been persistently struggling against powers to disengage Pakistan from any Saudi war effort. Lawmakers in Parliament voted unanimously, maintaining that Pakistan would remain strictly neutral in Yemen.

Though there has been condemnation and resistance from UAE and Saudi Arabia, it has been of utmost importance, for our regional and internal stability, that Pakistan stay out of any war in Yemen, and for our government and establishment to persist in anti-war efforts. This is why this decision of the army is such a shocker, since it was without any consultation from the parliament.

What is worse is that it was not an impromptu decision, but one that was impending, so the army had several opportunities to inform the parliament. The phrasing of the last Foreign Office statement condemning the Houthi missile attacks had clearly shown a shift in Pakistani policy. Moreover, when the COAS met with the parliament to answer queries, he was specifically asked about his visit to Saudi Arabia. He dismissed it as a matter of national security, whereas it is highly likely that this development was discussed on his visit.

This precedent, of major decisions being made unilaterally by the army, and keeping the public and their elected representatives out of the loop, is a highly dangerous one, and there needs to be proper justification from the army for this action. Pakistan getting involved in Yemen is severely harmful for our relationship with Iran, and for internal Pakistan stability and Shia-Sunni relations. To involve Pakistan in a proxy war with our neighbour, behind the backs of our parliament, is an outrageous decision and needs to be backtracked.