The conflict in the Middle East has the potential to escalate into a prolonged, and serious, regional war. The rise of Yemen’s Houthi movement began with thousands of Yemenis protesting in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, urging the President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government to step down in August 2014. It was entirely an internal matter of the Yemen until the Saudi led coalition launched air strikes on the Houthis. What goes around comes around is the rule of the political game and the Saudis are rather aware of it. The Saudi royals know that their army has never fought a modern war with all its components and strategic complexities, and they simply cannot be victorious against the Yemeni militia. Therefore, the Saudi royals want the Pakistan Army to protect them. Empirical findings show that Saudi Arabia and Iran have been supporting different militia groups in the Muslim world to fight their proxy wars- but it is different this time. The initiation of the Saudi led coalition Operation Decisive Storm, is a categorical declaration of open war that may trigger the regional war starting from Yemen encircling Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Where does Pakistan stand in this conflict? Let us all remain painfully aware of the facts. Pakistan is fighting its own war on terrorism. Regardless of this, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan. Why is that? What was he thinking? And how could he issue a policy statement about going into war without even consulting the Parliament? Is he the King of the Kingdom of Pakistan or is he the Prime Minister of Pakistan? The Pakistani Defense Minister is saying that Pakistan has pledged to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And why is this? Is he the Defense Minister of the House of Saud or Pakistan? Needless to say, there is a big question mark on the political legitimacy of the PML(N) government. Reminder: The PTI sit-ins seeking the formation of the Judicial Commission to probe alleged massive electoral rigging in the 2013 elections brought the PML(N) into power. The Saudi led air strikes have not only violated international law but also undermined the sovereignty of Yemen and now the logic says that the Yemenis are coming for the Saudi royals. Saudi royals want to hide behind the powerful Pakistan Army and they expect PM Nawaz to pay in kind for his comfortable exile years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Is this the beginning of the end of the Saudi Monarchy? Maybe, maybe not - But one thing is for certain: it is the beginning of a very dangerous conflict in the Muslim world.

Where should Pakistan stand in this conflict? The leader of the opposition Khurshid Shah (PPP) and PTI Chairman Imran Khan are the only ones talking sense in the current political landscape. To simplify, Pakistan must stay out of the conflict and Pakistan should play its role for peace, and should not take any sides in the war in the Middle East. Pakistan is already facing too many challenges and taking any sides in the forthcoming regional war in the Middle East will have devastating consequences for Pakistan. It seems to be an international conspiracy to drag Pakistan into an extensive conflict that will provoke severe sectarian violence within our territory and resultantly, will compromise Pakistan’s territorial integrity. The Pakistan Army’s mandate is to protect its country’s sovereignty; not that of Saudi Arabia or Iran. The absurd consequences of Pakistan’s unnecessary involvement in the internal affairs of other countries such as Afghanistan should have been an unforgettable lesson: never jump into wars that do not involve you. It is best for Pakistan and its Army to stay out of the Middle East; otherwise, the consequences for Pakistan are already the writing on the wall.