In a stunning move that invites wary speculation and questions the ambit and intentions behind the military’s unilateral decision, Defence Minister Dastagir outright refused to provide details of the ‘enhanced cooperation’ extended to KSA under which a contingent of 1,000 Pakistani troops are being deployed. While the defence minister’s assurances and prevarications were soundly rejected, he refused to divulge details under the now significantly worn-out garb of national security.
The parliament is understandably incensed at not being consulted in this decision. The focal point of this argument remains that where the parliament had unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that Pakistan should not be a party to the Saudi conflict with Yemen, it is a blind siding contradiction and negation of that resolution when such a unilateral decision is made without taking the parliament into confidence. It also calls the authority of the Defense Ministry and military into question where through previously undisclosed objectives and surreptitious meetings, the Army Chief makes an autonomous commitment to a cause that has not been divulged to or approved by Parliament.
The undue secrecy and reticence is cause for concern especially when it comes to Pakistan aligning its military strength in the highly unstable Persian Gulf. The federal government and the military leadership needs to be transparent in their objectives before the parliament. Saudi Arabia’s national goals and proxy wars are not aligned with Pakistan’s national interests. Even if they were, the will of the parliament cannot be unequivocally superseded in such a manner without justification.
What can be seen here is a scrabbling to further fortify ties with Saudi Arabia as an appendage to Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif serving as commander of the Riyadh-led, 41-country Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT).
Where Pakistan turns a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and continues to extend fealty to Saudi hegemony in the region despite its own problematic relationship with the elements of fundamentalism that are siphoned through with funding, it cannot do so without compromising its ties with other countries in the region. This move further complicates relations with Iran, a relationship Pakistan needs to cultivate for the benefit of CPEC. Furthermore, where Pakistan’s military force and defence ministry bears the onus of cultivating military support and defence liaisons with an eye to national security, they cannot do so without the consultation of the Parliament or repudiate its call for transparency in such a politically stringent matter.