Pakistani human rights activists and civil society organizations have raised a strong voice of protest against the reported imminent deployment of Pakistani armed forces in Saudi Arabia – at the request of the House of Saud – to fight against the Iran-backed forces in the current civil war raging in Yemen.
Civil society has strongly condemned the PML(N) government and its allies amongst the political parties for even the consideration or the remote possibility of such an unethical and wrong move.
It would be a huge strategic and tactical mistake for Pakistan, in longer-term political, military, economic and foreign policy losses, against the ruling political party’s immediate/short-term financial and monetary gains. The mysterious “gift” of US$1.5 billion in 2014, and the reluctance of the government to be transparent about it then, begins to be comprehended now. The government should have the courage to be open and honest now.
Firstly, it should not attempt to befool us citizens that “the holy land of Saudi Arabia (i.e. the home of Islam’s two holiest shrines) is under threat of attack” (sic). It is not. The fact is that Saudi Arabia is attacking Yemen, not vice versa.
Secondly, our armed forces are not a mercenary force, up for rent to the highest bidder. We have not yet forgotten Black September: Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s bombardment of Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan way back in 1970. We are still paying the diplomatic and political price for that disaster.
Thirdly, we are in the midst of internal military operations against militants and terrorist networks like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), such as Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan, other parts of FATA, Karachi, Malakand, and the Balochistan turmoil, amongst others. How thin can we spread our armed forces personnel and equipment? Do we even wish to do so? Where is our priority? The armed forces risk unpopularity, alienating Pakistani citizens and intensifying extremist sectarianism.
Fourthly, we should strictly stay out of the deadly proxy wars that Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging in several countries, including Pakistan, in addition to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, and others. We have managed to stay out for over two and a half decades, we should not change our policy now. Is Yemen not a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia? Is Yemen not a member of the OIC like Pakistan? What makes fighting with Saudi Arabia against Yemen more important for Pakistan than fighting against Daaish/ISIS in i.a. Syria, Iraq, Lebanon or Libya? Yemen ke awaam ka qatl-e-aam na manzoor na manzoor.
Is it the political clout that is bought by financial hammering, e.g. “free grant” aid, cheap oil, 0.8 million migrant workers’ remittances worth billions; or by oral shield protection at the UN Human Rights Council? Or is it the emotive clout of the “Khaadim-e-Harimain-Sharifain”? Or that of USA, another big donor and lender, as well as the seller of armaments to Pakistan?
Let USA play its double and triple games in the region. We must not emulate it. We must be ethical. Pakistanis are no longer befooled. We are no longer silent. We are Awake. We are Aware. We are Watching. We are Speaking Out. NO TO PAKISTANI ARMED FORCES IN THE GULF REGION.