A big round of applause is due to the elected Parliament that unanimously adopted a landmark resolution on Pakistan’s possible role in the Yemen conflict. It was one rare instance when the elected representatives rose to the occasion and raised their concerns as per people’s aspirations.

The merits or demerits of sending our troops to fight someone else’s war aside, this public departure from decades old policy of being Saudi lackey is an enigma. Parties who are normally seen regurgitating the religious rhetoric on anything concerning the Gulf States were suddenly heard in the parliament telling the Kingdom off. Even the military establishment was not so bothered about it. There have been no urgent unexpected calls between the GHQ and the PM House. Nor were there any unscheduled meetings between the two lopsided centers of power.

Alongside asking the government to be neutral on the armed conflict, the Parliamentary Resolution, which was unanimously adopted last week,also expressed “unequivocal support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” while reassuring that in case of any violation of her territorial integrity or any threat to Haramain Sharifain, Pakistan will stand shoulder to shoulder with Saudia and its people.

The clever wordings placated at one hand, the newfound popular quest for integrity and self-respect for Pakistan viz-a-viz Saudi Arab, while still keeping the doors open for deployment of troops in case of a threat to the territorial integrity of the Kingdom. The current popular sentiment, which is contrary to the state’s choices made for some economic and other interests in lieu of certain services, is sometimes good for raising the price tag. It is even better if elected institutions support this ‘popular sentiment’ too. The more difficult it appears to deploy troops considering of course the ‘public sentiment’, the higher the price that the state can haggle for.

Just a day after the adoption of this resolution, Saudi media flashed the news of two Iranian Revolutionary Guards being arrested near the Saudi border – an evidence of the threat to the territorial integrity of the Kingdom. In order to defend Saudi Arabia’s borders, Pakistan could very well send its troops in complete compliance with the Resolution. The reflection of this obligation and the possibility could be seen in the vacillating positions of JUIF and other media proxies, who are now starting to sound too desperate to save the Haramain Sharifain.

During the parliamentary debate one completely missed any reference to the past transactions with Saudi Arabia with or without any written agreement to that effect. One did not hear any call for the accountability of military establishment that has been budging in to Saudi requests in past, without any parliamentary oversight. One did not hear any demands from any parliamentary party to ask for the minutes or meeting briefs for last visits of the Land of Hijaz by the Army leadership and high level meetings therein. Looking at the public discourse, it is safe to say that neither Parliament nor the government was taken into confidence about the promises already made from our side.

In August 2012, Senate’s Standing Committee for Defence and Defence Production presented a report to the House. Alongside reiterating the usual claims of ‘exemplary’ relations with Saudi Arab, the report describes the defence cooperation between both the countries. In the name of this ‘mutual’ cooperation, Saudia has been paying cash as reimbursement for our services. It was, hence, more a buyer-seller relationship than a ‘brotherly’ passion as we have been made to believe. Not to forget that our request of supplying oil on long-term credit was turned down in 2012 by the ‘brotherly country’. We are still buying Saudi oil without special subsidy that could be easily offered to a ‘brother’ in need.

The biggest bail out that has come from KSA so far was in 1998 after the economic sanctions in the aftermath of our nuclear tests. Saudia, according to this report, promised us 50,000 barrels of oil on deferred payment, some part of which was later converted to grant. This was after we had provided them military help since 1960s when Pakistan Air Force started delivering training and maintenance services for Royal Saudi Air Force. A Mutual Cooperation Program commenced in 1967 under which we helped RSAF in pushing back South Yemeni incursion on Saudi borders in 1969.

In 1970s Pakistani forces quelled insurgents during Grand Mosque Seizure of 1979. As per the defence protocol of 1982, the cooperation was widened to include defence production & technology. It was later extended to current level of Joint Defence Collaboration under which Pak Army conducts joint military exercises as well as defends their borders and installations with their ground presence. In addition, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Heavy Industries Taxila and Institute of Industrial Control System are providing defence production services to them. The question is, if the Saudis have always had their part of bargain in the form of our military assistance, why our establishment always guised it under the ‘Ummah’ rhetoric? In all official documents Saudis appear to be doing it because of ‘brotherly sentiments’ for us (while bombing other Muslims; sometimes Yemini sometimes Palestinians).

Further, Pakistani government and army have been assuring the Kingdom that Saudi defence was a duty of Pakistan and that Pakistan’s Forces should be considered Saudi forces. So much so that Pakistan’s nuclear strength was called ‘Islamic bomb’ and a shared power of the entire Muslim world. On Iran however, the sentiment changes its shape. Whither Ummah? In this backdrop, it appears logical that the military leadership might have already made certain commitments about sending troops, jets and ships during their interactions with Saudis in last couple of months.

May be that’s why Saudi ‘demand’ was specific rather than arbitrary – troops, ships and jets. That also explains why Saudi government had confidently informed media about Pakistan’s contribution and why Pakistan’s flag showed up in their media briefings. This happened while Pakistan officially denied this decision. Then came the reaction from the civil society, the media, the parliament, which was not in favour of renting out Pakistani soldiers anymore. To this, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash reacted by warning Pakistan of ‘heavy price’.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Kkan was the first and the only voice from Pakistan’s side that reacted to the arrogant Emirati (but none yet to the Saudi)by calling his remarks ‘offensive’ and ‘unacceptable’. In this entire saga, if something is missing it is the bride herself. There is a meaningful silence from the military leadership and their ceremonial figurehead boss, the Minister of Defence. During the entire proceedings, the parliament was not briefed about the past transactions and the commitments made.

The nation has a right to know why our soldiers were sold in the name of ‘defence cooperation’, the burden of which lied on us most of the time? Why despite spending so much of taxpayers’ money on our defence forces, those asking for our help have the privilege to continuously humiliate us? If there existed a prior military commitment with Saudis, why the political government and the Parliament didn’t know about it? Who is planning to deal with the ‘brotherly’ threats beyond statements? As always, military establishment is going to leave you alone to deal with it, dear politicians.