Senator Farhatullah Babar on Friday raised objections over the army’s deployment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), terming the development as “tantamount to bypassing the parliament”.
Drawing the attention of the House to the matter, Senator Babar called the deployment to Saudi an issue of public importance. He said he had also given an adjournment notice to discuss the issue.
Earlier on Thursday, the army announced that it was deploying troops in Saudi Arabia under an existing bilateral security pact. The army made it clear that its contingent in KSA will take part in training and advice mission. “In continuation of ongoing Pak-KSA bilateral security cooperation, a Pakistan Army contingent is being sent to KSA on training and advice mission,” the Inter-Services Public Relations had announced after a meeting between Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa and Saudi Ambassador Nawaf Saeed Al-Maliki at the General Headquarters.
Referring to the ISPR announcement, he said that the development came after a meeting between the COAS and the Saudi ambassador which was preceded by a recent three-day visit — the second in two months — “quietly” undertaken to Saudi Arabia.
He maintained that the number of troops being sent is unknown but the disclosure that it will be less than a division “indicated that almost a full-fledged army division is being sent to the Kingdom”.
Going after the Foreign Office, the senator termed its condemnations against Houthi missile attacks as “nuanced statements”, alleging that the FO has been paving the way and providing false justifications for the development.
“The deliberately nuanced FO statements condemning the Houthi missile attacks as a threat to the Kingdom and Holy Mosques also seem aimed at justifying sending of Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia for active engagement in the conflict.”
“Has anyone given a serious thought to its grave consequences?” he asked.
Referred to the parliament’s unanimous “resolution seeking strict neutrality” in connection with the conflict, he asked who was making “unilateral” decisions, which bypass the parliament.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani then summoned Defence Minister Khurrum Dastagir. The minister is expected to appear before the Senate on Monday to deliver a policy statement on the recent development.
Saudi Arabia has been demanding deployment of Pakistani troops since the start of the Yemen conflict in 2015, but Pakistan has been struggling to evade the demand despite a unanimously adopted parliamentary resolution affirming the country’s “neutrality” in the conflict.
Last year, Pakistan sent its retired army chief Gen Raheel Sharif to lead a Saudi coalition. Therefore, it was always speculated that the deployment would take place even though it could not happen as quickly as the Saudis wanted.
The ISPR insists that the new deployment and nearly 1,000 Pakistani troops already stationed there would not be “employed outside KSA”.
There was no word on the size of the deployment.