Tehran, Jan 8, IRNA – Saudi Arabia’s campaign to build a broad Sunni alliance to contain Iran has apparently suffered at least a setback from Pakistan and was instead invited by Sharif to settle the dispute peacefully.
Islamabad has opted, at least for now, to avoid becoming entangled in the sectarian cold war between Riyadh and Tehran, the Al Monitor reported.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rejected, at least for now, Saudi Arabia’s entreaties for Pakistani troops to help guard the Saudi border with northern Yemen, controlled by native Yemeni revolutionary Houthi forces.
Earlier this month, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was invited to the kingdom for urgent talks with King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and his advisers.
The embattled king met Sharif at the airport to underscore the importance of the talks. The main topic was the baseless Saudi claim on Iranian aggression in the Arab world and Riyadh’s shared concern with Tel Aviv on the impending deadline for the P5+1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear project.
The king wanted firm assurances from Sharif that Pakistan would align itself with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies against Iran, especially in the unjustly Saudi imposed war now underway in most impoverished and oppressed Yemeni nation.
Salman specifically wanted a Pakistani military contingent to deploy to the kingdom to help defend the vulnerable southwest border with Zaydi Houthi-controlled north Yemen.
There is precedent for a Pakistani army expeditionary force in Saudi Arabia. After the Iranian Revolution, Pakistani dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq deployed an elite Pakistani armored brigade to the kingdom at King Fahd’s request to deter any threats to the country. In all, some 40,000 Pakistanis served in the brigade over most of a decade. Today only some Pakistani advisers and experts serve in the kingdom.
According to Pakistani sources, Sharif has reluctantly decided not to send troops to Saudi Arabia for now. Sharif promised closer counterterrorism and military cooperation but no troops for the immediate future. Pakistan also declined to move its embassy in Yemen from Sanaa to Aden as the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council states have done to distance themselves from the Houthis.
The Pakistanis are arguing their military is already overstretched facing the traditional enemy, India, and the increasing threat from the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistan has its own serious sectarian tensions and violence. About 20% of Pakistanis are Shi’a and sectarian violence has been intensifying in recent years.
Groups linked to the Saudi-backed al-Qaeda such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have targeted Shi’a mosques and schools in suicide bombings.