Stay away from Yemen

The Saudi government’s request for the deployment of Pakistani soldiers, fighter jets, naval vessels and other arms and equipment against Yemen is a plan made in Washington, DC. While no Pakistani wants to see Saudi Arabian territorial integrity challenged by Yemen or any other country, no Pakistani wants to see Pakistani forces getting involved in the invasion of Yemen either.

The Saudis may be uncomfortable with the situation on their southern border, but the civil war in Yemen is that country’s internal matter. The first step should be for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to try and arrange a ceasefire and resolve Yemeni issues by dialogue. The US drone attacks and the planting of a US puppet as president in Yemen have resulted in this uprising, so let the US find a solution to the Yemen conflict.

Pakistan has the sixth-largest armed forces in the world and to commit them to a war that is not ours could have disastrous consequences, not only for our military, but for the entire nation. We could get bogged down in a prolonged, never-ending war, exacerbating our military capacity, damaging our soldier’s morale and causing unspecified damage to our defence capabilities. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan not only resulted in its defeat, but also in the break-up of the USSR and loss of its superpower status. Fourteen years of US involvement in Afghanistan has cost the US in excess of a trillion dollars and it does not have much tangible results to show for it. When superpowers like the Soviet Union and the US, with enormous resources, were not able to defeat the Mujahideen and the Taliban in Afghanistan, how do we expect to defeat the Houthis in Yemen?

Not long ago, Iraq had the largest armed forces in the Middle East. The US instigated Iraqi attacks on Iran and Kuwait saw the total demise of the Iraqi military — a purpose well served for Israel. Could the current scenario be an attempt to strike a massive blow to Pakistan’s defence capabilities? One cannot but help wonder.

Also, the US involvement in Iraq, Libya and Syria seems to have deliberately fanned sectarian flames. Today, every US TV commentator and self-appointed pundit talks about it. Some openly, and others not so openly, talk about taking advantage of this divide. Both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have to be extremely careful about not getting trapped in a US game as its pressure on Pakistan via Saudi Arabia may be a part of their long-term strategy to create chaos and weaken the Muslim world further.

Also, we need to take pause and reflect. Have we not suffered enough after playing the American game in Afghanistan for the last 30 years? It has brought us the Talibanisation of the youth, terrorism, gun culture, drug smuggling, murder and mayhem. Nearly 70,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in terrorist attacks since the Afghan war. The fiscal damage to the country’s economy alone has been in excess of $100 billion. Instead of our economy growing at a rapid rate like India’s and China’s, we have been bogged down into an Afghanistan-like situation. Have no lessons been elicited from this misadventure?

Pakistan’s first priority should be to achieve eventual peace in Yemen through mediation. Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have a part to play in this. With a ceasefire in Yemen, the Saudis may not feel the need for Pakistani troops. However, if the conflict is not resolved quickly and Saudis fear a spillover into their country, Pakistan may consider sending troops to protect Saudi borders purely in a defensive capability. Under no circumstances should Pakistan’s troops be involved in the invasion of Yemen and there should be a pre-determined timetable for withdrawal of our troops should they be stationed there at all.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th,  2015.


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