Bisma Shahbaz is a junior international studies major
Pakistan has found itself in a great mess that they had no part in creating. After a long and rigorous debate Pakistani lawmakers came to the conclusion that they will not be supporting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a coalition to rid Yemen of the Houthi rebels that took power from the elected government. Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is a longtime ally of Pakistan, the lawmakers made the right decision in not joining the coalition.
Pakistan was given the choice to join the Saudi- led coalition, but as of last Friday Pakistani lawmakers have stated that they will be taking a neutral stance in this serious matter, and hopes to see peace and stability in the region. This stance does not seem to have come out of the blue, or one that came easily. Saudi Arabia has been a long time ally of Pakistan, and has proven a beneficial one as well. Just last year Saudi Arabia gifted Pakistan $1.5 million to help them get out of their IMF loan, and according to Al Jazeera, Pakistan’s main source of remittances, a whopping $453 million, came from Saudi Arabia alone.
Pakistan has a plethora of their own problems that they need to handle before they decide to rent out their military to conflicts that do not directly concern them. After the tragic massacre of Peshawar schoolchildren, a renewed effort has gone underway to remove the Pakistani Taliban. If the problem of the Taliban existing wasn’t enough, the Parliamentary Secretary of Interior stated that Pakistan has lost over 50,000 people on the war on terror, has lost 80 million rupees in the process, and has to deal with civilians being killed by US Drones. Clearly Pakistan needs to pay attention to its own inward battle against terrorism before changing their direction and handling the terrorism problem of a different region.
While the conflict in Yemen is influenced more by power and politics than religion, there is a clear desire for Saudi to see the Yemeni government back in the hands of a Sunni Muslim rather than in the hands of Shiite, especially because the rebels are believed to be backed by Saudi’s longtime enemy Iran. While Pakistan is a country that has a majority Sunni Muslim population, fighting with Saudi can ruin a stable relationship that Pakistan enjoys with Iran and can cause sectarian tension between the Shiite and Sunnis in Pakistan. Pakistan should further allocate their attention to ensuring their own Shia population is safe and secure due to the fact that the Pakistani Taliban has persecuted and targeted the Shiite of the country, even though one in five Pakistanis are actually Shia.
The World Health Organization has put the death toll of Yemeni’s since the start of the airstrikes at a little more than 500, most of which are innocent civilians. The Pakistani public has shown their government over and over that they would not support Pakistan’s army contributing to the death toll. Protestors in Lahore and Karachi held up signs that had “Hands off Yemen,” “No to war yes to peace,” and “Pakistan army for Pakistan only” written on them. Pakistani lawmakers have listened to the public and taken the right stance, however hours after they announced their neutral stance the United Arab Emirates threatened Pakistan stating they will have to pay a heavy price for their neutrality. I hope Pakistan keeps the same strength it displayed in turning down their ally, preventing any corrupt politicians from swaying the decision to stay out of the mess in Yemen.