Pakistan and Yemen peace
The Yemen crisis began in 2015 when Houthi rebels opted to oust an elected President and take control of strategic areas. This was unacceptable to neighboring GCC states and to the world at large. The rebels had set a dangerous precedent of challenging legality. The conflict had the potential of a wider conflagration and therefore Pakistan was duly concerned and stands with international efforts for peace in Yemen.
The need for peace now has become more urgent as the conflict has entered its seventh year and already resulted in a huge humanitarian crisis in addition to many deaths. Moreover, Pakistan fully believes that legitimate governments should not be toppled by force and external interventions. Pakistan itself was subjected to such interventions in 1971.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has been in the vanguard of efforts for peace in Yemen. It put forward a peace plan last March that called for a comprehensive cease-fire. Very recently, it has reiterated the same plan and asked that Sana’a airport be reopened to flights and that activities at Hodeida seaport be restored for humanitarian assistance. The UN Secretary General has supported the Kingdom’s efforts. But unfortunately, the rebels have not paid much heed and the main reason is greed for oil resources around the historic city of Marib. Clashes around this government controlled area have continued for some months.
Pakistan’s continued policy in the Middle East and larger Islamic world has been to diffuse tensions and promote unity.
The UN has been engaged in Yemen peace efforts through its special envoy Martin Griffiths. The Yemeni economy has been hit hard by the civil war and Covid-19. Already a part of least developed nations, the Yemen economy has further melted down. 75 percent of a 28 million population now needs humanitarian assistance. Three million Yemenis are internally displaced. Malnutrition is common and infant mortality rates have jumped up. In view of this humanitarian crisis, the international community should support the UN and the Kingdom’s efforts for peace. Griffiths is moving to another job within the UN system. However, the world body is likely to continue its efforts for peace in Yemen and organizing humanitarian assistance.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry, through an official statement last March, supported the Kingdom’s peace initiative and termed it a “comprehensive road map for peace.” It also urged all parties to engage in a “meaningful dialogue” to avoid further deaths and destruction. Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on Inter-faith Harmony and Middle East also expressed full solidarity with the Kingdom in its peace efforts. He also praised the diplomatic efforts of the State of Kuwait and Sultanate of Oman in this regard.
The peaceful settlement in Yemen will open doors for tranquility in the region. It has an important location due to the Gulf of Aden which must remain open and secure for international trade at all times. It also sits on the other side of the Horn of Africa. Pakistan is fully cognizant of the importance of Yemen and the efforts of rebels to disturb peace in neighboring countries. Pakistan has, time and again, expressed its solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, being central to the Islamic world and vital for international energy supplies. Despite rebel control of some areas in the north and their drone attacks, the Kingdom has effectively defended itself militarily and supported legitimacy in Yemen in international forums successfully.
A review of the resolution adopted by the Pakistani parliament in 2015 is instructive. It had expressed apprehension that Yemen turmoil could spread to the region and said it stood in full solidarity with the Kingdom in defending the Holy Harmain. Highlighting Pakistan’s close ties with GCC countries, the resolution had stressed the need for a negotiated settlement. Pakistan’s continued policy in the Middle East and larger Islamic world has been to diffuse tensions and promote unity.
Pakistan opposes extremism and terrorism in all shapes and forms and rejects the activities of non-state actors against legitimate governments, internationally recognized. That is the international position as well. The United Nations, where all member nations are represented, holds identical views. A different position will encourage chaos worldwide. It is about time international efforts for peace in Yemen are increased-- a move Pakistan will extend its full support to.
- Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst.