Pakistan parliament not convinced by defense minister’s explanations about troop deployment to Saudi Arabia
Pakistan’s Senate has blasted the government for the secrecy surrounding Islamabad’s recent decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia, describing explanations by the Pakistani defense minister given to Senate representatives as insufficient and a “lollipop to a child.”
Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir appeared at the Senate on Monday to explain the government’s reasons for deploying the troops to Saudi Arabia.
Pakistani lawmakers had questioned that decision, saying it might violate a parliamentary resolution that urges neutrality in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.
A resolution was unanimously passed at Pakistan’s parliament in April 2015, stipulating that the Asian country had to stay neutral in the war on Yemen “so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.”
Pakistani lawmakers blast a recent government decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia, saying the move may violate a parliamentary resolution that urges neutrality in the war on Yemen.
Dastagir, however, failed to provide details about the mission, causing more dissatisfaction at the Senate.
Senate Chairman said he rejected Dastagir’s briefing to the upper house of the parliament after the minister said he could not divulge the “operational details” of the deployment.
Chairman Raza Rabbani told the defense minister that he could not hide any information. “The House is not satisfied with your response,” he told Dastagir.
Dastagir said that it was Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who had green-lighted the deployment.
Rabbani further said, “The parliament found out [about the deployment] through a press release. The executive has itself rubbed parliament’s nose in the dirt.”
“Why don’t we proceed against you and the prime minister over contempt of parliament?” Rabbani asked Dastagir alarmingly.
The defense minister attempted to give the Senate assurance that the Pakistani troops would not be deployed outside of Saudi Arabia.
Chairman Rabbani said this information was already known.
“Don’t give us a lollipop… we are not children,” Rabbani told him, insisting that they wanted to know the details of the deployment, including whether they were sent to the Yemeni border.
“Don’t ask where in Saudi Arabia the troops will be deployed,” Dastagir replied, a possible indication that the troops will indeed be deployed on the Saudi-Yemeni border.
Dastagir also revealed for the first time since the decision was announced that a total of 1,000 Pakistani troops were being sent to the Saudi Kingdom on a training mission, in addition to the 1,600 Pakistani soldiers who were already stationed in Saudi Arabia.