Sunday, April 12, 2015

Daily Times Editorial April 12, 2015

Parliament's wisdom After five days of debate, the joint session of parliament called by the government to discuss Pakistan's policy response to Saudi Arabia's request to join the Arab coalition against the Houthi rebels and their allies in Yemen's civil war proved the efficacy of its collective wisdom. A unanimous resolution reflecting the sense of the joint session, while appreciating the government for consulting parliament on such an important issue, recommended that the government refrain from acceding to the Saudi request for air and naval craft and soldiers to join the fighting in Yemen on the Saudi side. It further recommended that Pakistan should stay neutral in the Yemen conflict while being prepared to stand by Saudi Arabia if its sovereignty or territorial integrity was threatened. Pakistan, parliament further underlined, should play a proactive diplomatic role to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, followed up by efforts to get a dialogue going between the contending parties and searching for a peaceful political solution thereby. The war in Yemen, the resolution emphasised, was not a sectarian war yet, although it could transmogrify into one. This would have unforeseen consequences for the already existing sectarian conflict across the region, the Muslim world, and most critically, Pakistan. This is not an unjustified apprehension for a number of reasons. Pakistan has been suffering from the outbreak of sectarian conflict for many years. In our case, the tragic fact is that what has been described as a slow genocide of Shias continues at the hands of openly sectarian Sunni extremist groups that consider Shias fair game to be put to the sword because of their beliefs. The region and the wider Muslim world is in the throes of sectarian tinged wars that owe more than a bit to the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Yemen is one of them. For a country like Pakistan to get embroiled in regional or inter-Muslim wars generally, let alone a war that has a sectarian fallout potential would be the height of folly. Pakistan currently has its plate full with problems. Wisdom demands we deal with these, including terrorism (without excluding sectarian terrorism), the energy crisis and the economy. That is quite enough to keep us fully engaged for the foreseeable future. Parliament's resolution also pointed to the need for moving the UN Security Council and the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to strive for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen. Parliament expressed serious concern at the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and the implications of this for regional stability and peace. This concern has also been expressed by the army's top brass in the shape of the statement emanating from the Corps Commanders' conference. Last but not least, the resolution appreciated the government's evacuation of Pakistani nationals (and other countries' citizens) from war-torn Yemen, mentioning in the process the contribution of China in this humanitarian rescue mission. The unanimity on display in the joint session of parliament proved the culmination of what was apparent was an already emerging consensus during the debate. Speaker after speaker from both sides of the house spoke along exactly the lines of the eventual resolution. This then was proof positive of the wisdom of collective consultation with the elected representatives of the people. But the show of unanimity would not have come to pass had the government not accepted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf's (PTI) objection to defence minister Khwaja Asif moving the resolution on the grounds that his badmouthing the PTI on the very first day of the session ruled out the PTI's voting for any resolution moved by Khwaja Asif. The 'resolution' of the resolution moving conundrum took the form of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar moving the resolution, an implicit admission by the government that Khwaja Asif had been out of line. That ensured frayed nerves and seething tempers were cooled and the resolution then had smooth sailing.

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