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Pakistan has been deploying an increasing number of military trainers in Saudi Arabia and has expressed willingness to send more troops should the Saudis so require.
As Riyadh continues to wage its war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, there are fears that Pakistani troops may be dragged into combat.
This goes against Pakistan’s Parliament passing a resolution in 2015 to maintain neutrality.
The details of the deployment were outlined during General Bajwa’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, during a meeting in Riyadh earlier this month.
While confirming Pakistan could send more military personnel, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that Pakistani troops would not operate outside Saudi territory.
“Troops already there will not be employed outside” the ISPR statement read and sources confirmed that Pakistan had only agreed to station its troops to man the Yemen-Saudi border.
In 2015, Pakistan’s Parliament passed a resolution to uphold neutrality in the conflict but, with the military establishment consolidating its power, the Saudi royal family appears to have persuaded the Pakistan army to step more directly into the fray.
“The fact that it was the ISPR and not the government that made the announcement to send troops shows how the military dominates policy-making in Pakistan,” retired Lt. General Talat Masood, conceded to a leading Asia journal.
“The decision should’ve been taken by the Parliament because they had already passed a resolution against Pakistan’s involvement ”.
“Pakistan has openly become involved on the Saudi side in the Yemen war. First, it (was) only supposed to guard the two holy sites in Makkah and Madinah then it became Saudi domestic interests”, he protested
The decision has implications for Pakistan’s bilateral relations with neighboring Iran. There has been concern in Tehran over its growing military ties with Saudi Arabia.
The Iranians view the IMCTC, a coalition of several countries standing in support of Saudi Arabia, as a force against them – and today this is pertinently led by Pakistan’s former COAS, General Raheel Sharif.
General Bajwa has tried to maintain a balance, but he has his work cut out for him, say analysts.