ISLAMABAD–Pakistan on Wednesday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement on the end of the kingdom-led military operation in Yemen.
“This will pave the way for a political solution of the crisis in Yemen,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said in a statement, adding that Pakistan shared Saudi Arabia’s desire for a “peaceful settlement of the crisis”.
The FO’s statement comes hours after the Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen announced an end to its operation, saying the campaign had “successfully managed to thwart the threat” on the Saudi kingdom’s security.
The allied army also claimed that it had achieved its military goals in Yemen, and would now begin a new operation called “Restoring Hope”, with a focus shifted towards security, counter-terrorism, aid and a political solution in Yemen.
“Operation Restoring Hope” combines political, diplomatic and military action, but the main focus would be on the political process.
Despite a declared halt to a Saudi-led bombing campaign, rival forces fought on in Yemen.
Almost a month ago, Saudi Arabia and four other Gulf states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), had announced their decision to “answer the call of President Hadi to protect Yemen and his people from the aggression of the Houthi militia”.
The Kingdom and its allies then launched air strikes in Yemen against Houthi fighters, who had tightened their grip in the southern city of Aden, where the country’s president had taken refuge.
Following initiation of the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, Pakistan was formally contacted by top Saudi officials, requesting it to join the Yemen operation.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has since held several meetings with top civil and military officials and has on several occasions said that a “threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will evoke a strong response from Pakistan”. But despite repeated statements in favour of Saudi Arabia’s stance, Pakistan did not officially commit its troops to the offensive in Yemen.
To evolve consensus on the matter, a joint parliament session was summoned by the government to debate Pakistan’s role in Yemen. After days of discussion, Pakistan’s lawmakers opted for neutrality in the conflict.
Although implying that Islamabad should refrain from assisting Riyadh militarily, the resolution added that Pakistan should stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudi Arabia to protect the latter’s territorial integrity.
But the parliament’s resolution did not go well with the Gulf Cooperation Council; UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash warned Pakistan of having to pay a “heavy price” for taking on what he called an “ambiguous stand”.
A couple of days after the UAE minister’s remarks, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared on national TV along with some of his cabinet members and advisers to clarify Pakistan’s stance.
The premier’s brief speech, which was described by his office as a “policy statement on Yemen”, was interpreted as a formal clarification from the country’s highest political office after the parliament’s resolution provoked a hostile response from a UAE minister, which was seen as reflective of the general mood in the Gulf.
A second delegation led by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, including senior civil and military officials, was also sent to Saudi Arabia on April 15, with the objective to express solidarity with the leadership and people of Saudi Arabia.
Shahbaz Sharif reiterated the Pakistani government’s unequivocal support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia, while reaffirming that the people of Pakistan stand ever-ready to protect Harmain Sharifain.
The premier’s policy statement and a second delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia seemed to have eased tensions between Pakistan and the Gulf countries; but despite official statements of support for Saudi Arabia, Pakistan is yet to commit its troops in the war-torn region.
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