Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pakistan’s Dilemma and a war in Yemen

Someone is fighting with someone in Yemen; rest of the world hardly noticed that. After all, there were scarcely much time when people of Yemen were at peace in past half a century. More than that, Yemen is neither a big supplier of oil nor that of gas. Apart from American drones and occasional Saudi interferences, Yemen was at war with itself.

However, the equations are quite different now. It’s not only about two factions fighting with each other; but a Saudi backed one against an Iran backed one. It’s a different matter whether Iran actually provide supplies to Houti’s; after all Houti’s land is located faraway from Iran borders. As a result, the wealthy coalition of Sunni Arab world took arms against a Houthi’s backed by financially broken Iran.

So how Pakistan came in to this equation? In order to understand that, we need to look at the oil flow. Currently Saudi and other gulf monarchies are fulfilling the oil needs of Pakistan. As a fellow Islamic country they offer reduced price to Pakistan. In return they also expect support of Pakistan’s military (probably one of the finest battle hardened military in Islamic World).

We can’t blame Saudi for asking Pakistan’s support, after all they supplies oil and aid (Saudi sent their Islamic affairs minister – Saleh bin Abdul Aziz - to Islamabad). Support here means – ships, fighter planes and ground troops. Pakistan already deployed major chunk of their Army at eastern border and for the operations in Afghan border. So in paper Pakistan can argue that, they don’t have much troops to spare. But I hardly believes that is the case. After all Pakistan still contribute troops to UN Peace Keeping Missions.

So here comes the other probable reasons,
1. Thoughts like, why to take sides on a conflict (in a faraway country) which have strong religious undertones.
2. Operations against Houthi’s, connected to Shia dominated Iran, may not go down well with country’s minority – but significant – Shia population.
3. Pakistan shares a long border with Iran (During this time Iran sent their foreign minister to Islamabad).
4. Taking part in such an operation may send a message that their army is for hire. Which of course is not a good image for Pakistani Army.
5. This may jeopardize Iran – Pakistan pipeline project.
6. Possibility of more troubles in Baluchistan.

There may be multitudes of other strong reasons as well.

In this situation Pakistan Administration did what they could do the best – issuing statements. Will support Saudi’s territorial integrity but no boots in Yemen (they didn't say the later part explicitly). As parliament passed the resolution, administration can easily market it as the will of the people. Will this decision go down well with Gulf Monarchies? I don’t think so. After all they were propping up Pakistan economy for a long time with generous aid and subsidised fuel.

Whatever may be the reason, I appreciate their decision – not to put their nose on Yemen.


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