Don’t give us a lollipop… we are not children, Rabbani told DM

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Defence Khurram Dastagir on Monday assured the Senate that Pakistani troops were only being sent to Saudi Arabia to impart training to Saudi Armed Forces instead of entangling in Yemeni conflict.

In a ministerial response to a point raised by Farhatullah Babar regarding Pakistani contingent being sent to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the minister said, “the apprehension that our troops entangle in Yemen conflict is totally incorrect.”

He said, currently 1,600 personnel of Pakistan Army were on deputation in Saudi Arabia and 1000 more personnel were being sent to Saudi Arabia purely for training purpose.

The minister said the Prime Minister has approved deputation of additional Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia for training and advisory purposes.

He said that the assistance being rendered to Saudi Arabia was a continuation of the ongoing support and within the confines of joint Parliamentary resolution of April 2015. He said that the planned training and advisory contingent has yet not been dispatched to Saudi Arabia. He said that the contingent would have strength of over 1000 troops of all ranks and would be dispatched shortly.

“Contingent deputed in Saudi Arabia will perform its training and advisory mission while remaining within the geographical boundaries of the Kingdom,” the minister said.

He said Pakistan had also trained Saudi Armed forces personnel in various training institutions of the country. Nearly 10,000 Saudi security personnel have got training from Pakistan so far, he said.

He said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also hold joint defence exercises regularly. Officials and dignitaries of both the countries frequently exchanged visits, he said.

He said Pakistani forces have vast counter terrorism experience and rendered supreme sacrifices in war against terrorism.

The minister said training of Saudi forces were governed by 1982 bilateral protocol regarding the deputation of Pakistan’s Armed Forces’ personnel. He said troops were being sent to Saudi Arabia under the bilateral protocol agreement of 1982. He said Pakistan would remain impartial in Yemen conflict and would only impart training to Saudi armed forces.

Regarding relations with Iran, Khurram said Pakistan attached great importance to its relation with Iran.

The Senate chairman censured Dastagir for not taking the House into confidence even though both the defence minister and premier had knowledge of the decision for several months. “The House is not satisfied with your response,” he told Dastagir, while Senator Farhatullah Babar stressed that “all concerns remain despite the defence minister’s statement”.

“Has a decision been taken to deploy troops at the border of [the southern Saudi province of] Sharura,” he asked. The Senate chairman told the defence minister that he could not hide any information from parliament, and even offered him the option of briefing the Senate on the issue in detail in an in-camera session.

“[But] don’t give us a lollipop… we are not children,” Rabbani told him.

However, the defence minister turned down the offer, stressing that he could not divulge operational details of the mission. “Don’t ask where in Saudi Arabia the troops will be deployed,” he further said.