Riyadh had previously requested that Pakistan join a coalition that is forming for the defense of the Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. Pakistan has promised a “strong response” to any threat to the Gulf kingdom, according to AFP. Shiite rebels in Yemen are attempting to overthrow the President and seize control of the country, a worrying development for the majority Sunni Saudi Arabia.
Strong relations between the two countries
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took the decision to send the delegation following a meeting with top defense and military officials, which took place in Islamabad late Thursday night local time. According to a statement from his office, the group will travel on Friday.
“The meeting concluded that any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity would evoke a strong response from Pakistan,” it said, before specifying that both Pakistan’s defense minister and Sharif’s national security adviser would travel to the Gulf kingdom, accompanied by top military figures.
PM Sharif told the assembled officials that “Pakistan enjoys close and brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia and other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries and attaches great importance to their security.”
Shiite Huthi rebels have been attacked by Saudi warplanes, and the Saudi ambassador to Washington said that a coalition of 10 countries was being formed to protect the government of Yemen.
What does Pakistan risk by joining the coalition?
Yemeni President Hadi is currently located in the southern city of Aden after being forced to flee the capital Sanaa last month. The rebel advance towards Sanaa raised fears that they could take the whole of the Sunni-majority country and take it into Shiite Iran’s sphere of influence.
Saudi Arabia does not want an Iranian proxy lurking on its southern border, and appealed to its allies for help. According to the official Saudi news agency, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan, have all so far “expressed desire to participate in the operation”.
Egypt and Jordan have since confirmed their participation, joining up with Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia
However Dr. Shireen Mazari, Central Information Secretary of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf political party, claimed on Twitter that “Pakistan simply cannot afford to get embroiled in any Shia-Sunni conflict in the Gulf and ME [Middle East] regions.”
If it joins the coalition, Pakistan risks stirring resentment among its minority Shiite community, as well as causing friction with neighboring Iran.