ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani members of parliament spoke against becoming militarily involved in Yemen on Wednesday as they resumed a one-sided debate on a Saudi request to join a campaign against Iran-allied Houthi forces in Yemen.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due in Pakistan on Wednesday when he is likely to urge Pakistan to reject the Saudi request.
“The Yemen war is not our war...Our advice to the government is that the army should not go,” said opposition member of parliament Shireen Mazari.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he will defend Saudi Arabia’s “territorial integrity” but not spelled out what, if any, commitments he has made.
Mazari said Pakistan would be obliged to defend Islam’s holiest shrines, but there was no present danger to the shrines in Saudi Arabia.
“As Muslims, we are duty bound to counter any threat to holy shrines but there is no such threat today,” she said.
Opposition Senator Tahir Hussain Mashadi said the “aggressors” were the Saudis and the victims were the Yemenis.
“Now the aggressors are asking another sovereign state, Pakistan, to come to provide military aid to Saudi Arabia.”
The Sunni royal family of Saudi Arabia and Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy are rivals for power in the Middle East. Their competition frequently fuels sectarian violence.
Last month, a Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes in Yemen against Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a border and Saudi Arabia says it is afraid that instability might spill over to its territory.
Saudi Arabia wants its staunch ally, Sunni-majority Pakistan, to join the coalition, and has requested ships, aircraft and troops.
Pakistan’s parliament began debating the request on Monday and no legislator has spoken in support of sending troops for Saudi to use in Yemen.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia presented a gift of 200 tons of dates to Pakistan, which in return “conveyed the warm sentiments of the people of Pakistan of their Saudi brethren for their love and affection”, the Nation newspaper said.
Although there are many groups in the complex Yemen conflict, Pakistani lawmakers fear it could develop into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and inflame already simmering sectarian tension at home.
Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Anam Zehra; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore