Should Pakistan join the fight in Yemen?

Published on 8 April 2015 in Report
Brett Scott (author)

Brett Scott


Saudi Arabia has requested Pakistan to support coalition forces with naval ships, aircraft and ground troops in its military offensive on Houthi rebels and allied military units in Yemen.

Fierce debates inside Pakistan’s Parliament started Monday, and remain ongoing. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already vowed to defend Saudi Arabia’s “territorial integrity,” but he has yet to expand on what steps he would take to do so.

Many in Pakistan feel it is their duty to protect Saudi Arabia, which houses Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam. In Wednesday’s parliamentary session, opposition Parliamentarian Shireen Mazari addressed this concern, saying, “The Yemen war is not our war… As Muslims, we are duty bound to counter any threat to holy shrines but there is no such threat today.”

At the same time, others are worried a move by Pakistan to militarily support Saudi Arabia could inflame tensions with neighboring Iran, commonly said to be backing the Houthis. The Pakistani military is also heavily involved in operations on its own soil at the moment, as it seeks to fight the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP) in western tribal territory.

From the bustling streets of Lahore in eastern Pakistan, the Yemen Times asked locals whether they think the country’s military should join the Saudi-led coalition in its bombing campaign in Yemen.

Brett Scott is an editor at the Yemen Times. Scott was evacuated from Yemen Sunday and now works for the paper from Lahore, Pakistan.

  Nasad, security guard

I think Pakistan should join because Saudi Arabians are our Muslim brothers. That is where the Kaaba is. Even if Yemenis are Muslim they do not have the Kaaba.

  Aziriqbad, 31, elite forces officer

We can not support this military operation in Yemen through the Saudis. Our people will not support it. Yemen is a Muslim country and Saudi Arabia is also a Muslim country and we can not afford this, Muslim people trying to kill each other. The Pakistani government needs to find a compromise between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and Iran also.

  Malik Sheah Ali Shems, 34, lawyer

Because our army is doing an operation against the Taliban [in Pakistan], I think we should focus on this first—eliminating terrorism in our own country. The Peshawar incident [school suicide bombing] was a big incident for the whole country. First we should eliminate terrorism in our own country and all other things are secondary.

  Sajjad Hussein, 35, hotel manager

The main thing for Muslims is our Kaaba is there, in Saudi Arabia. This is the most important thing for us and for Saudi Arabia. If the Pakistan army goes it should be only for the nakaaba. In the Pakistani government, the prime minister of Pakistan has a good relationship with Saudi Arabia, [and King] Salman. We will send our military and you [Saudi Arabia] can go to war. I don’t think it is good though, war. I think it is better if you sit at the table and talk and finish the problems. There are also many Pakistanis in Yemen.