Middle Eastern stability

Published: March 15, 2011

Anti government protesters marched on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama, on March 15, 2011, as Bahrain's king declared a three-month state of emergency as Iran strongly condemned a military intervention by Gulf troops to help put down Shiite-led unrest in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. PHOTO: AFP

We now know what Middle Eastern rulers mean when they talk about Muslim unity. The life of any Muslim who is not of the right sect or political persuasion is intrinsically worth less than that of his Sunni, royalist counterpart. At least that is the only possible interpretation of the news that the Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, has decided to send troops into Bahrain to protect the king from pro-democracy protesters. The protesters in Bahrain are mainly from the Shia majority while the rulers are Sunni and hence the presence of Saudi troops threatens to turn a battle for liberty into a sectarian war.

Apart from the fact that the Gulf states are acting as agents of a repressive regime that has lost its legitimacy, the conflict in Bahrain threatens wider Middle Eastern stability. The ruling family in Bahrain has been accusing Iran of being behind the uprising, a charge that is not borne out by any evidence. With Iran now urging the Saudis to back down, there is a danger that Bahrain could become a proxy for a larger Middle Eastern fight, with the sides divided purely along sectarian lines. The last thing the Middle East needs right now is a Shia-Sunni conflict.

Pakistan, for its part, needs to maintain a position of studious neutrality as good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia are important for us. That, unfortunately, has not been the case so far. Even before the protests began, many Pakistanis were serving in the Bahraini police force. Now, as this newspaper reported, the Fauji Foundation is recruiting mercenaries to fight for the dying regime. We have obviously not learnt our lesson from the Iranian Revolution of 1979, where we supported the Shah till the end. Our relations with the new regime suffered as a result. If, and when, the Bahraini people take control of their own destiny, we should want them to consider Pakistan an ally, not an enemy.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2011.

Reader Comments (1)

  • zeeshan
    Mar 16, 2011 - 10:03AM

    The growing restlessness in Behrain is the microcosm of deep sectarian schism deeply ingrained in the psyche of followers of two major sects of Islam.The saudis and iraninans are vying for growing influence in the gulf and middle east.Not surprisingly,
    sectarian strife in(post saddam iraq),increasingly violent sectarian violence in pakistan,
    and political distrubance in behrain,all this is the reflection of proxy wars each country is pursuing for the sake of expanding political and strategic hegemonic influence in the reigion.But,there is no denying, secatrian ideologues from both sides subtly advocate the expansionist agenda through all means at their disposal. Infact Behrain is shia majority island nation,Iraq has the similiar traits, where Iranian covert interventionist agendas brought dividends,this cause celebre(read the reawakening of historically defensive shia political ideology which was remained in conflict with majority dominated sunni assertive Political ideology) alarmed the overwhelming sunni countries in the region.And rightly so,though Shia islamic revolution in Iran was remained relatively less attractive for followers of sunni islam,but that revolution has rightly goaded the revolutionary surge in the followers of shia islam.Sunni islamist(political islamisim) in the muslim world contrary to their despotic (shia fearing) regimes were largely remained mesmerised with shia revolution in iran and too great extent were in good terms with iranians.
    Not surprisingly, in the historical context of shia sunni conflict, correct me if I am wrong, role played by majority shia population of iraq with the full backing of iran(the ideological godfather) in 2003 US invasion had shockingly jolted the majority sunni states as well as common sunnis about motives of Iran ideological and political kabba of shia ideology. Renown Sunni islamic scholar of Egypt(ideologically associated with Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt which enjoy cordial relation with iran) had warned the Iranian about the dangerous implication of this strategy.Syria which was remained Sunni Majority country ruled by minority ALvid shias.But Iran has embarked on the same path of turning the syria into shia dominated country by spreading shiat in syria likewise their arch rivals were accused to do in Behrain.Recommend

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