Pakistan Security forces
Pakistan Security forces

Pakistan to provide soldiers, fighter jets and warships to join its coalition for the war in Yemen.

The minister, Khawaja Asif, was addressing parliament, which is debating whether the country should join the Saudi-led campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels, amid fears that a decision to do so could further widen a bloody Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide in Pakistan.Security-forces-kill-14-militants-in-northwestern-Pakistan1

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week said parliament should discuss the question after the failure of his efforts to get support from opposition groups to send troops to Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia has requested aircraft, naval vessels and ground troops,” said Asif.

He also said that Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif was visiting Pakistan on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Sunni-majority Pakistan has always been staunch ally of Saudi Arabia but the country has recently been improving its economic and political relations with Shiite Iran, partly because of its energy needs.

It is believed that sending troops would anger Iran which is accused of supporting the Houtis.

“Joining the coalition is a hard choice,” said Irfan Shahzad, lead researcher at the Institute of Policy Study think tank.

“Islamabad can ill afford to enrage both Saudis and Iranians.”

The parliament might decide to send troops to defend Saudi Arabian territorial integrity but will not take part in the war in Yemen, a minister told dpa ahead of the meeting.

“That is what we can do for the Saudis in a minimal possible way,” said the minister, requesting anonymity.

“We don’t want our own country to suffer because of a conflict thousands of miles away.”

Shahzad said joining the Yemen conflict would aggravate the Sunni-Shiite divide in Pakistan that had killed thousands.

A decision was expected later Monday or possibly Tuesday.

GNA

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