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Parliament to Debate Yemen Crisis on Monday

by AFP
Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Government to decide whether to join Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels during special session.

Islamabad will conduct a special session of Parliament on Monday to debate whether to join the Saudi-led coalition against anti-government rebels in Yemen, the prime minister’s office said.

Pakistan, a close and longstanding ally of Saudi Arabia, has so far resisted Riyadh’s demand for it to join the group of Arab nations trying to prevent Shia Houthi rebels from taking over Yemen. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting on the Yemen crisis on Thursday after a high-level political and military delegation returned from a fact-finding trip to Saudi.

A statement released afterwards reiterated the government’s stance that any breach of Saudi “territorial integrity” would bring a “strong response” from Pakistan. It also condemned “actions by non-state actors in Yemen to overthrow a legitimate government,” but stopped short of committing to join the kingdom’s coalition at this stage.

“The prime minister… emphasized that all decisions in the matter will be taken in accordance with the wishes of the people of Pakistan,” the statement said. “To this end, the prime minister is advising the president to convene a joint session of parliament on Monday, April 6, to discuss this matter of national importance.”

Pakistan faces a tricky dilemma over the intervention in Yemen. It enjoys long military ties with Saudi and has benefited hugely from the kingdom’s largesse over the years. Like Saudi, Pakistan is majority Sunni Muslim, but 20 percent of its population is Shia and it is wary of fanning sectarian discord at home.

Pakistan also borders Iran, the main Shia power, which has strongly criticized the Saudi-led strikes on Yemen and has been accused of supporting the Houthis.

Moreover, concerns have been voiced in Pakistan about joining the Yemen intervention, seen by some as a “foreign” war, when the Army is already stretched at home fighting Taliban militants.

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