ISLAMABAD - Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah Tuesday said there could be an in-camera debate at the joint session of the Parliament if it was not possible for the government to disclose details about its recent commitment with Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the insistence of the opposition to share details, clarified that it was not appropriate to disclose details owing to sensitive nature of the matter. “It is essential to take care of the matter owing to its sensitive nature,” said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a brief statement, apparently mentioning the government’s compulsion for not sharing the details.

The prime minister, however, said the government would conceal no facts from the Parliament and respect the suggestions of lawmakers. “We need your valuable suggestions as policy will be formulated on these lines,” said the prime minister.

He further said the government was awaiting response of the Turkish leadership about their meeting with Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Pakistan and Turkey would jointly consult the leadership of Indonesia and Malaysia to find out ways to avoid turmoil in Yemen,” he said, reiterating Islamabad would help KSA in case of any threat to its integrity. He categorically made it clear that the government had not so far taken any decision on the Yemen issue.

Taking the floor, Opposition Leader Syed Khurshid Shah floated a suggestion to hold an in-camera session to share details about its specific assistance for Saudi Arabia. “The opposition will surely support the government in the larger national interest,” he added.

The lawmakers from treasury and opposition benches came up with different suggestions to resolve the tense situation in the Arab countries. PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, on his turn, called for supporting Saudi Arabia, pursuing the policy of non-interference and assuming the role of a mediator in peacemaking in the strife-torn Yemen.

“Without boots on the Yemen soil, Pakistan should assist Saudis in logistics, intelligence sharing, security of key installations, training in mountain and difficult terrain warfare and medical assistance,” he said, suggesting this limited assistance to the kingdom should be accompanied by a balancing act through quick dialogue with Iran on border security and bilateral talks on Afghanistan. “It is not in our national interests to be used by any Middle East country for posturing against Iran,” he said.

Babar said Pakistan was the biggest contributor to UN peacekeeping troops and called for UN peacekeeping in Yemen. “This will enable us to have our troops in Yemen, but only for peacekeeping and under the UN.”

“An immediate ceasefire and humanitarian assistance must also receive priority as delay will not only result in a human catastrophe but also defeat the very purpose of the ongoing operation in Yemen,” he said, adding the crisis in Yemen was basically political that called for a political solution and not a military response.

“The intervention in Afghanistan in the 80s in the name of Islam earned some dollars, but brought a huge devastation in the form of drugs, Kalashnikov culture, refugees and rise of militancy,” he said.

After 9/11, he said, Pakistan allowed its airbases on a telephone call to be used for strikes against Afghanistan. As a result, we got some 20 billion dollars, but lost over 56,000 citizens and soldiers, and suffered heavy material losses. “The situation in Yemen is a war between different tribes. Saudi Arabia was not attacked; it was Yemen that was attacked,” he said. “We should not repeat the mistakes we committed in the past; these issues were discussed earlier. Let’s try and move forward as indicated by the PM,” Babar said. The PPP leader said no one would refuse Saudi Arabia’s request outright, but there was a consensus that Pakistan did not want to be part of a distant war.

Taking the floor, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that it should not be treated as a sectarian conflict. “It is a Middle East proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan should avoid getting entangled in the Yemen conflict as it was not its own war,” he opined.

Giving his suggestions, the PML-Q senator said China and the UN should play a role in ceasefire in Yemen. He added Pakistan and Turkey should jointly co-host Saudi Arabia and Yemen for negotiations.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq spoke about repercussions of wars. “It is a great game as Yemen issue did not arise all of sudden,” he said, adding Pakistan should play a reconciliatory role in the conflict. He backed defence of Saudi Arabia. “The government should form a parliamentary delegation and send it to the Arab countries to discuss the situation,” he said, adding it should not be made a sectarian issue. Pakistan should prevent Saudi Arabia from waging a war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

National Party (NP) lawmaker Hasil Bizenjo said it was not a matter of the Muslim Ummah but of Arabs. There was a need to resolve it with diplomatic channels, he added.

A senior ANP MNA opined Pakistan should go for reconciliation rather than sending troops as it might prove dangerous for the country.

Agencies add: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government is “not in a hurry” to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen, as he sought parliamentary backing for any decision to send troops.

Nawaz Sharif asked the lawmakers to advise the government on the difficult issue of sending troops for this war.  “We are not in a hurry, we will take all your good points,” he said.

“I am not saying that you should decide based on the government’s policy, you should guide the government. Leaders should tell us what to do. What stance should Pakistan take?” he said, adding “the entire nation has its eyes on the joint session.”

“I assure you that whatever is decided by this assembly will be implemented,” he said.

PM Nawaz Sharif called for Iran to be involved in a debate on security in Yemen.

Not a single MP spoke in favour of sending troops.  “Iran should also join the discussion and evaluate whether their policy is correct or not,” the PM said. “If we get involved in Yemen, a huge blaze will once again erupt in our country,” veteran opposition lawmaker Ghulam Ahmed Bilour told parliament. “My army is not a rent-an-army.”