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November 13, 2017

Role of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia in rebuilding Yemen

Top Story

November 13, 2017

Major infrastructure of Yemen stands destroyed in the war. People are forced to live in growing misery without basic necessities of life. They are looking to the international community, especially the Muslim, for support. I am writing this to draw the attention of Muslim world including, my government, to help the suffering Muslim brothers and sisters in Yemen.

The Yemanis started suffering when the war broke out in 2015 when rebels tried to put immense pressure on the country’s government. As a result two forces emerged — loyalists of President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and the allies of Houthi rebel movement. The initial civil crisis shortly gained international importance when ISIS and Al-Qaeda entered the arena to control some of the Yemen’s territory.

Yemen, listed as the poorest Arab country, has a population of 26 million out of which, 21 million have suffered deeply from this war. Some 80% of them have even lost access to clean water. The country is facing worst food crisis where 7 million are only a step away from famine. Cholera outbreak has worsened the health crisis with over than 200,000 cases and 3,652 vaccination facilities going non-operational in early 2016. As a result 2.6 million children under the age of 15 were exposed to preventable diseases.

Damage to the infrastructure and economy is immeasurable. Over 2.5 million people have been internally displaced leaving behind ashes of their homes and personal belongings.

In 2016; according to reports, Yemen economy has suffered estimated $7.3 Billion loss. Houses, hospitals, schools, markets and even the trade and sanitary systems have been completely destroyed in many cities.

The hospitals and schools, undamaged or not destroyed, are now either used as shelter by the refugees, or are occupied by the fighting rebel and armed groups.

Reports show, that total number of 63 health facilities were attacked; out of which, 3 were used by the armed groups. Furthermore, 51 attacks are confirmed to be specifically targeting the educational facilities including schools and personals. Out of 1600 schools, 280 were completely destroyed, and 500 were used as shelter homes. Rebels managed to occupy 33 schools, using them as barricades. Schools suffered damage with $250 million calculated cost.

A post-conflict economy like Yemen’s is in no way comparable to a regular economy facing a crisis. The rebuilding of the socio-economic framework of a war-torn society is the first priority. However, countries facing war, or fighting a violent conflict from within, face tremendous and hard to achieve challenges while returning to normalcy. The humanitarian relief involving food, water, shelter and protection to the victims is the first step to recovery followed by the financial relief to rebuild the drastically damaged economy.

War has broken up social and economic networks, destroyed assets of the state, inflicting deep wounds on the people of Yemen. The country will take a long time to return to normalcy.

The cities of Sa’ad in the north and Aden and Taiz in the south are left in ruins by the catastrophic nature of the war. The reconstruction cost for energy facilities in just four cities was estimated to be $139 million. One can’t even imagine the cost Yemen has to bear to rebuild its overall infrastructure and to initiate and complete the rehabilitation process. How could a country hit so hard by an internal and external feud and power crisis, can be rebuilt and rehabilitated without support of allies? International aid is indeed the speediest long-term solution to the crisis.

The destruction and damage done to the country has to be categorized through systematic clearance and rehabilitation process for specified selected areas, one by one. The process for reconstruction and rehabilitation needs time and skills.

Here a trust deficit created as a result of the war in the hearts of Yemenis for the western powers is a limitation; therefore the building and restoration should not be done by western companies as the Yemenis will still look at it with suspicion. However; if this rebuilding is done by Pakistan then being a Muslim country, the help is not likely to be opposed.

The expertise of the Pak army in crisis management and their skills in rebuilding and rehabilitation of the war ridden areas are unmatchable. The restructuring of infrastructure and the well planned rehabilitation processes both in Swat and Fata undertaken by Pakistan Army, were exemplary. The northern Yemen Tyrian is very much similar to that of FATA, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Pak army is the best institution to carry out rehabilitation operations in Yemen in the most effective way.

I further would like to propose that Saudi decision-makers consider inviting Pakistan for the rebuilding process in Yemen so that as a neighbour Saudi authorities can play their effective role in providing relief to Yemen by effective logistic support of Pakistan.

In the meantime I would like to advise our defence team to not waste opportunity of helping Yemen with the coalition of other allies like Saudi Arabia; not only with the intention to support a Muslim nation in need, but also to create a long-term ally and friend in the global political dynamics.

This reconstruction of infrastructure and rehabilitation in Yemen should be considered to be undertaken by FWO, NLC and by prominent Pakistani private builders. It would be wiser to encourage participation of retired army officials from the corps of engineers and labour force from private companies to work together in Yemen. I also propose that the initial survey and research, construction and rehabilitation must be done under the supervision of OIC teams to avoid any complications. This way Pakistan could offer their expertise, skills and a gesture of peace, human love and respect to Yemeni brothers and sisters, which indeed will be acknowledged by the international community.

The reason I urge Muslim nations to jointly help Yemen is because of my study on the destruction in Iraq where owing to the increasing number of deaths, and hopelessness, the people there became vulnerable and were left at the mercy of Daesh. I feel that if Pakistan plays an effective role in the rehabilitation process of Yemen with SaudiArabia and other Muslim countries, it could be saved from becoming another Iraq, helping Yameni families return to their homes and life.

Pakistan should also take the initiative through the ministries of foreign affairs and defence to negotiate with the stake holders concerned to undertake the rehabilitation project in Yemen as soon as possible. It will send a positive message to the Muslim world, and I hope it can generate a positive response as well. I am hopeful that this proposal will be viewed positively and would be acceptable to HM King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and the vibrant Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman.

(The writer, a recipient of Sitara -e –Shujaat & Nashan-e-Imtiaz, is Chairman of think tank "Global Eye" &former Interior Minister of Pakistan. @Email: [email protected], Twitter @Senrehmanmalik, @GlobalEye_GSA, WhatsApp +923325559393)

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