Pakistan on Yemen: Won’t join a conflict that splits Muslim world
Islamabad: Pakistan Defence minister Khawaja Asif said on Friday that the country will not take part in any conflict that would divide the Muslim world, in an apparent reference to Pakistan’s possible participation in the conflict in Yemen.
“We will not take part in any conflict that could result in differences in the Muslim world, causing fault-lines present in Pakistan to be disturbed, the aggravation of which will have to be borne by Pakistan,” Asif asserted, according to a Dawn online report on Friday.
Asif’s reference to “fault-lines” hints at Pakistan’s widespread sectarian conflict, as a result of which Shia and other religious minorities are targeted in tit-for-tat killings by extremist groups.
The Defence minister elucidated Pakistan’s role in the Yemen conflict in the National Assembly, saying that no decision to participate had been taken and that Pakistan had only pledged to safeguard the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia.
“Instead of aggravating the situation by participating in it, Pakistan should do what it can to prevent it — for the alliance and unity of the Muslim world,” the defence minister said.
He stressed on Pakistan’s role as a “facilitator” to end the conflicts in the Muslim world.
“Pakistan is ready to adopt whatever role is needed in order to facilitate the termination of conflicts in the Islamic world,” Asif said.
The request from Riyadh to participate in the joint operation against the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen comes at a time when the Pakistan military is engaged in an operation against terrorists in North Waziristan.
Asif’s statement comes a day after Saudi Arabia said that Pakistan would join the operation against the Iran-backed Houthis. The conflict in Yemen is rapidly escalating into a murky civil war.
Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif had asserted that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan, according to an earlier report.
Asif’s announcement apparently rules out Pakistan’s immediate participation in the Yemen conflict.
“We want this issue to be resolved in a common forum where the Muslim world or Arab League is involved,” said the defence minister.
“The need of the hour is alliance and solidarity, not division,” he said.
“Division on the basis of religion or sect is rising in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Instead of conflagration or proliferation… It should be contained,” he added.
“I reiterate, this pledge is for the protection of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)… if the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia is threatened then Pakistan will defend it.”
Asif said: “We offered to visit (Saudi Arabia) so we can assess the situation. The Arab League took up this matter; hopefully they will be able to resolve the matter in a forum. They can also take it to the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). We will see what happens in a couple of days. If we have to visit, we will definitely go there.”