Catastrophic manoeuvres

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    Ill-conceived policy rooted in personal allegiance likely to spell disaster

     

    By all available accounts, Pakistan has gone a fair distance in committing support to Saudi Arabia in its ill-conceived adventure against Yemen. It is only that its leadership is chartering through some sophisticated motions to appease growing domestic discomfort about dragging the country again into a conflict that, without doubt, it needs to stay away from. The scope of this sophistry encompasses innuendos like Pakistan is only committing itself to defending Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, or that it is trying to mediate in the conflict with Yemen. In all probability, and with the decision already taken, the calling of the joint session of the parliament loses all importance or relevance.

    Pakistan’s support of Saudi Arabia is being fed on blatant lies and contradictions. It is not Saudi Arabia whose sovereignty and territorial integrity are under threat as it has not been attacked by any outside force. On the contrary, it is Riyadh that has launched an unprovoked, illegal and inhuman attack against a sovereign country, Yemen, which has already resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.

    It should be noted here that one is not talking about the palpable paucity of intellect and capacity that Nawaz Sharif and his close coterie of sycophants suffer from to handle a situation which can have far-reaching, multi-dimensional and bloody ramifications. One is only talking about a grave conflict of interest that automatically disqualifies Nawaz Sharif from having anything to do with formulating Pakistan’s policies at this juncture vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. If that be the case as, obviously, it is, he should immediately de-link himself from all decision-making processes leading up to any final announcement in this regard one way or the other. If he does not do so voluntarily, legal and constitutional recourse should be followed to oust him from the decision-making domain in the existing matter

    But a critical point that is being overlooked in the context of the decision-making process is the deep-set conflict of interest that Nawaz Sharif is afflicted with at this critical juncture in Pakistan’s history. He has repeatedly asserted that he owes his life to the Saudi intervention as, otherwise, he would have been sent to the gallows by General Musharraf. If he is so beholden to the Saudi leadership for, quite literally, his life, the question arises whether he is the right person to lead the country into taking a decision with regard to extending support, or otherwise, to the Saudi leadership in their misadventure in Yemen? It should be noted here that one is not talking about the palpable paucity of intellect and capacity that Nawaz Sharif and his close coterie of sycophants suffer from to handle a situation which can have far-reaching, multi-dimensional and bloody ramifications. One is only talking about a grave conflict of interest that automatically disqualifies Nawaz Sharif from having anything to do with formulating Pakistan’s policies at this juncture vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. If that be the case as, obviously, it is, he should immediately de-link himself from all decision-making processes leading up to any final announcement in this regard one way or the other. If he does not do so voluntarily, legal and constitutional recourse should be followed to oust him from the decision-making domain in the existing matter.

    Sharifs’ use of the religious card as an instrument of securing political gains has also not been a secret. The danger emanating from the twin penchant of allegiance to the Saudi Crown on the one hand and a sickening predilection to using the sectarian divide for attaining political objectives on the other could sow the seeds of further perpetuating the endless religious strife in a country that has already been its victim through many decades.

    As an unmistakable demonstration of pursuing a myopic personalised approach when it comes to handling matters with Riyadh, the delegation that accompanied the prime minister on the visit to Saudi Arabia on the call of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz included his brother Shahbaz Sharif and a close relation Ishaq Dar who lords over the financial exchequer of the country. Other members were two recognised cronies: one with roots in the media and the other representing the foreign office. When real-politick demanded a multi-party representation at these crucial talks, the Sharif wisdom preferred the closest of the family and toadies to handle the matter.

    As an unmistakable demonstration of pursuing a myopic personalised approach when it comes to handling matters with Riyadh, the delegation that accompanied the prime minister on the visit to Saudi Arabia on the call of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz included his brother Shahbaz Sharif and a close relation Ishaq Dar who lords over the financial exchequer of the country. Other members were two recognised cronies: one with roots in the media and the other representing the foreign office. When real-politick demanded a multi-party representation at these crucial talks, the Sharif wisdom preferred the closest of the family and toadies to handle the matter

    Pakistan has been the principal theatre of the proxy war that Saudi Arabia and Iran have traditionally waged for gaining supremacy in the Middle East. Consequently, it has suffered immensely both in shape of loss of human stock and drainage of its meagre resources. At this juncture, Pakistan is engaged in fighting a war against terror on its own soil which has a distinct sectarian element to it with over 4,000 reported deaths owing to the Sunni-Shi’a divide. It would, therefore, be foolhardy for Pakistan to take a partisan position against a country with which it shares a 550-mile long boundary as also when over 20 percent of its people conform to the Shi’a doctrine. In addition to unsettling a large portion of its own population who would rightfully feel alienated, Iran could easily use its proxies to further ignite the sectarian strife which would render the ongoing war against terror an absolutely untenable undertaking.

    Then, there is also the case of the seminaries which have been radicalising the impressionable minds of the country to wage jihad against infidels. These seminaries have been traditionally funded by Saudi Arabia. In the National Action Plan (NAP), the government had vowed to register and regulate all seminaries and gag their sources of funding. While there has been much noise on the on-going operation in the FATA region and the hanging of a few criminals most of whom have not even been involved in terrorist acts, there is practically little that can be presented by way of progress in eliminating the nurseries of terror from the country, thus precipitating the prospect of an upsurge of sectarian violence. The main cause has been Pakistan’s inability to take up the matter with Saudi Arabia and convince it of the damage that its wars in the name of Wahhabism are causing to Pakistan.

    But, there is yet more to it than meets the eye. The $1.5 billion received from Saudi Arabia a few months ago was initially kept hidden from public discourse. Under pressure, it was described as a ‘gift’ by the finance minister with ‘no strings attached’. Even the source of the largesse was not revealed till much later. This amount apparently came as a reward for a disastrous policy shift when, abandoning its traditional legacy of non-interference in other countries’ affairs, Pakistan called for the formation of a ‘transitional government’ in the war-ravaged Syria. It is even reported to have provided sophisticated weapons and troops to the rebels fighting the Syrian government

    One of Pakistan’s perennially degrading problems has been the begging bowl that it has traditionally carried to all its allies and friends. In the process, it has shamed itself and reduced its army to becoming a mercenary outfit that would serve the interests of those who would pay the price. The history of its relations with Saudi Arabia only testifies this bondage. Back in 1969, Pakistani pilots are said to have flown Saudi jets operating against Yemeni incursions against the Kingdom. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been close partners in the ill-conceived wars in Afghanistan, first against the then Soviet Union and later against the onslaught of terror. Pakistan is also reported to have stationed upward of 15,000 troops in the Kingdom during this period and also during the Gulf War. In the present circumstances, there has also been talk of extending a nuclear umbrella to Saudi Arabia in the event it came under attack – a kind of carte blanche commitment that would imperil Pakistan’s nuclear status itself!

    But, there is yet more to it than meets the eye. The $1.5 billion received from Saudi Arabia a few months ago was initially kept hidden from public discourse. Under pressure, it was described as a ‘gift’ by the finance minister with ‘no strings attached’. Even the source of the largesse was not revealed till much later. This amount apparently came as a reward for a disastrous policy shift when, abandoning its traditional legacy of non-interference in other countries’ affairs, Pakistan called for the formation of a ‘transitional government’ in the war-ravaged Syria. It is even reported to have provided sophisticated weapons and troops to the rebels fighting the Syrian government.

    The Saudis suffer the paranoia of being encircled by the Iran-led Shi’a forces. In the North, the Shi’a Iran is assisting the Shi’a-dominated Iraq in its battle against Sunni ISIS. In the North-West, the Iranians are assisting President Bashar al-Assad against ISIS, al-Nusrah and whatever remains of the “Free Syrian Army”. The Hezbollah from Lebanon, with support from Iran, are also fighting alongside Assad’s army as are the other Shi’a Muslims. The Saudis now claim that the Iranians are also fighting against them in Yemen with the Houthis. Saudis also feel threatened by the prospect of a nuclear deal between Iran and the US which would ultimately lead to the lifting of sanctions against their nemesis. But there is another danger that usually does not find expression in the official Saudi jargon: that of an internal implosion against the highly autocratic and dynastic regime that is unwilling to loosen its hold and allow some basic freedoms to the people. Barbaric punishments are carried out in public in the name of religion without as much as even a rudimentary recourse to the annals of justice.

    This conflict is not going to remain restricted to Yemen alone. It is going to degenerate into a fight for the control of the Middle East and Pakistan has no reason to take sides in this widening and fractious fratricide. Personal allegiances should have no role in deciding the fate of nations. If Nawaz Sharif feels so deeply beholden to the al-Saud dynasty for his life, he should forfeit his responsibilities as the prime minister in Pakistan and take up cudgels in his personal capacity for the defence of Saudi Arabia and its autocratic rulers whose mode of governance is quite akin to the family- and religiosity-laden oligarchy that he has always desired to impose on Pakistan

    For Pakistan, it is a case of refusing to learn from history. Its involvement in Afghanistan gave birth to the Kalashnikov, drug and violence culture that has only dug in deeper with the passage of time. Its espousal of religiosity ala the Objectives Resolution, the Blasphemy Law, the Hudood Ordinance and so many other constitutional aberrations has rendered the state partisan in dealing with its own people, thus eroding its moral and legal writ. Its differentiation of terror along ‘friendly’ and ‘unfriendly’ demarcations has helped the demon spread its deadly tentacles through all echelons of the country. In the Saudi ruling hierarchy, the Sharifs of Pakistan see Muslim brothers as if Yemenis worship another God. They want to defend Saudi sovereignty and territorial integrity even when they are the aggressor against Yemen. Support to Riyadh is also being promoted in the name of guarding the holy Muslim sites when there is no such threat in sight. If at all, it is the al-Saud oligarchy that is threatened. A national narrative is being built in the name of supporting Pakistan’s national interest when, in actual effect, an involvement in the Saudi-led aggression would compromise it wholesomely. Saudi action against Yemen is also being supported even when there is no international sanction and no United Nations resolution to back it. The action is, in fact, a gross violation of the UN charter being an unprovoked and illegal act of aggression against another sovereign, but weaker country.

    Yet another argument is that support is being extended to a close friend. In the process, one forgets that Saudi Arabia has funded militant groups and fought proxy wars on Pakistani soil, thus endangering its peace and existence. More importantly, any level of involvement in this war would render its military prone to being dubbed as a mercenary force that is available on rent to fight others’ wars. There is not a shred of truth in the narrative that the Sharifs are desperately trying to build in an endeavour to rescue their supposed benefactors and saviours who have plunged their country into an ill-thought-out and dangerous strife that is likely to impact the future of the al-Saud dynasty as also the fate of the larger region.

    This conflict is not going to remain restricted to Yemen alone. It is going to degenerate into a fight for the control of the Middle East and Pakistan has no reason to take sides in this widening and fractious fratricide. Personal allegiances should have no role in deciding the fate of nations. If Nawaz Sharif feels so deeply beholden to the al-Saud dynasty for his life, he should forfeit his responsibilities as the prime minister in Pakistan and take up cudgels in his personal capacity for the defence of Saudi Arabia and its autocratic rulers whose mode of governance is quite akin to the family- and religiosity-laden oligarchy that he has always desired to impose on Pakistan.

    5 COMMENTS

    1. When we people of Pakistan such leaders into power , we are ourselves to blame.Know Mr.Nawaz Sharif is playing with sovereignty of our nation

    2. Nawaz has from day one done all for personal reasons and this is no exception. The damage done would engulf him and his coterie for good InshaAllah.

    3. Personal relations have no role in international relations. Yemen is a soverign country . It is facing a domestic conflict which its own citizens should sort out. If we regard it as international conlict between Yemen and SA then why is not UN in the picture. Our PM is illadvised.

    4. The PM wants to be a big man on the international circuit little knowing he is putting Pakistan into the firing line! Let us examine the games being played in the middel east. USA is opposing Iran in Yemen, supporting Iran in Iraq and opposing Iran in Syria. At the same time USA has successfully achieved a detente with Iran viz viz nuclear weapons. Does any one think Pakistan can chart an independent course from USA. We are willing to do it's work in Yemen through the backdoor. Let us keep away from the cauldron of Middel East. Our priority should be Iran next door. It is better to have near friends than distant ones.

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