In tatters: Pakistan’s Middle East policy

Pakistan's ME policy has been one of status quo; that is, support autocratic leaders in exchange for petro-dollars.

Yunas Samad March 31, 2011

Pakistan’s policy for the Middle East, which has been founded on Islamic solidarity, is now in danger of being left in tatters. In reality, it has been in support of the political status quo; that is, the rule of autocratic leaders backed by petro-dollars. It has blinded the authorities, not only in this country, but elsewhere as well, to the fact that great wealth and breakneck speed of development can lead to Arab exceptionalism. Today, this is threatened by the tide of democratisation, the demand for azadi by a youthful, rising middle-class, which is sweeping the Arab world. The West views this development through the lens of interest and yearns that this wave of democracy engulf its regional enemies — Iran, Syria and Libya — who have been a thorn in its side. Hence, its active involvement in the overthrow of Qaddafi. The West has also intervened to protect it petroleum interests by backing what it hopes will be the future government of the country.

However, the reality is far more complex and the uncomfortable truth is that the wave of democratisation ignited by the occupation of Tahrir Square is encircling Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, the linchpin of western strategic interest in the region. Eruptions in Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and the more muted demands in Saudi Arabia itself, are indicative of regional resonance and the significance of the demand for democratisation. The contradiction in the West’s support for democracy stands exposed. This is because not only is it muted in its support for pro-democracy movements in these countries, it also does nothing to goad the regimes towards reform. The question that hangs in the air is, how long will these potentates and autocrats remain in power?

Saudi Arabia has drawn a line in the sand and, like Qaddafi, will use force to suppress the tide for democracy within its borders and in neighbouring states. The sending in of troops to Bahrain under the pretext of Iranian influence is stirring up the Shia majority and seems to be a desperate attempt to prevent the tide of democracy from entering the Arabian Peninsula. This is a futile act, like King Canute commanding the sea to go back, and is likely to radicalise the demands for democracy into demands for a republic. If regimes are unwilling to reform, then the danger of revolution becomes more significant.

The Pakistan military has seen secondment to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia as comfortable and profitable sinecures under the guise of Islamic solidarity. However, now, Pakistanis are being recruited as mercenaries, to suppress the demands for democracy, by increasingly desperate autocrats who don’t have the confidence and loyalty of their own armed forces. Qaddafi recruits mercenaries from Africa to fight off demands for freedom and Bahrain turns to Pakistan. No one knows what the next page in history will show and how developments in the Middle East will pan out. The dam may burst and demands for democracy may lead to reform, or they may be suppressed and gestate into more furious uprisings, only time will tell. However, for Pakistan, the danger of acting as mercenaries for these regimes may result in it becoming the enemy of the people. If change comes, Pakistan may find that it has backed the wrong side and, keeping that in mind, it needs to develop a more sensitive understanding of the momentous developments taking place, and not view them from the Saudi perspective of seeing the movement in Sunni-Shia terms.

The tide is turning and Pakistan needs to be aware of the very real possibility that if these regimes topple, those who come to power may view Pakistan in a negative light. Hence the need for Islamabad to perhaps start hedging its bets.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 01st, 2011.


HUSSAIN WAZIRI | 10 years ago | Reply What ever Mr Younus expressed is a vivid and clear fact of the time.It is,indeed,a complex mode of time for all Muslim states of the world whether they support the pressed strata of Muslims whom are being incessantly oppressed into hands of non-Muslims of the world.The recent uprisings in the midleast actually indicates the original sentiments of the people of the Middle astern Muslim countries.On the other hand,it is somewhat a trial of our state policy towards these countries whether we are presenting our sympathy with them or expanding it against only for dollar-paid a strategy is being exercised by Pakistan in the Middleast on high pressure of international powers (USA,Saudi Arabia).There are many ex-army men who are being used like a shield over the protection of Bin Khalifa in Bahrain and in turn a negative image of Pakistan is being developed into the ranks of Bahrain's.Which of course,will create many difficulties before every Pakistani who have been serving in Bahrain for many years.If we are really serious about the future of Middleast then why a muted silence is alway being served by our state strategist in Palestine and Libya.They are too Muslims,It should extend its hands along with arm force against the oppressed Zionist and foreign troops of US in the respective areas of Palestine and Libya, where they are confidently targeting the innocent people of the respective Muslim states.Why are we following an unbiased policy in this regard?.Why are we blindly supporting GCC in terms of recruiting youth in order to curb the mobs in Bahrain?.This is the time where we have to present a clear and fair policy towards Muslim and non-Muslim countries of the world.
Q | 10 years ago | Reply Completely Agree. Very well-said. The implications of sending forces to bring about short-term peace will have long-term negative implications for Pakistan and all other countries supporting the oppressive regimes.
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