By Javed Hafeez
Non-state actors are individuals or groups who hold influence and are partially or wholly independent of governments. They can be violent or non-violent. Philanthropic organizations working for health, education and poverty alleviation are often non-violent. Some other non-state actors use violence to advance their political goals. The latest example of a violent non-state actor is Daesh.
During the decolonization era, some non-state actors inspired a degree of romanticism, the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela being an example. The cataclysmic episode of 9/11 ended that romance.
The Houthis of Yemen are a non-state actor of a peculiar kind. This rebel group, belonging to a small region in North Yemen, wants to capture power by any means, fair or foul. It wants to oust the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi by any means. If that is allowed to happen, political instability would spread to in the region in no time. This armed militia has not only killed its foes within Yemen, but also targeted innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia.
That the Kingdom has a special place in the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people goes without saying. As the custodian of two of Islam’s holiest shrines, the Kingdom is dear to all Muslims. However, for Pakistan, this bilateral relationship is especially important. More than two million Pakistanis work in Saudi Arabia and many more visit for Hajj. Bilateral trade has been increasing and cooperation in the field of defence goes back to the early 1970s. Saudi Arabia’s economic strength, its political stability and robust defense capabilities are essential for regional peace and a vibrant international economy. No wonder Pakistan’s people and their government have viewed the Houthi missile attacks with grave concern. Indeed those missile launches have evoked international concern for violating UN Security Council resolutions. Such attacks with the use of unguided ballistic missiles are often inaccurate and end up killing innocent civilians. The UN Security Council condemned Houthi missile attacks unequivocally in March this year.
An official statement from Islamabad in December 2017 said: “Pakistan condemns the missile attack on Saudi Arabia and warns against violation of the Kingdom’s territorial integrity or threat to the holy mosques there.” In another statement issued in March, Foreign Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal said: “Pakistan commends the government of Saudi Arabia for destroying the missiles and limiting the casualties. These missile attacks target innocent civilians. The increasing frequency and ferocity of missile attacks targeted at innocent civilians by Houthi rebels pose a threat to regional peace and security. Pakistan would stand shoulder to shoulder with the government and people of Saudi Arabia in case of any violation of its territorial integrity or any threat to Harmain Sharifain.”
Pakistan’s print and electronic media has also been giving wide coverage to the missile issue.The Houthi rebels in Yemen must realize that they are on the wrong side of history. The days of violent non-state actors are long gone. Under these circumstances, the Houthis should first forsake violence and then they should become part of mainstream politics in Yemen through peaceful means. Empathy with brotherly people and the government of Saudi Arabia is natural for Pakistan. The Pakistani government and people are fully cognizant of the fact that Saudi armed forces are performing the vital duty of defending the Holy Mosques, internationally important energy installations and the lives of millions of Saudi citizens from these brazenly illegal attacks from across the border. Pakistan stands shoulder to shoulder with the Kingdom in protecting its territorial integrity and the lives of its citizens from these cowardly missile attacks.
(The author 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. Twitter: @hafiz_javed)
By Javed Hafeez