Pakistan finds itself in a fix over its support for a regime change in volatile Syria. The move has angered Iran, while drawing support and encouragement from Saudi Arabia.
As Syria descends further into chaos, the Saudi king has scheduled a summit of leaders from the Islamic world this month, where President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to represent Pakistan.
The Alawite regime in Syria, led by President Bashar al Assad, is considered to be one of Iran’s crucial allies in the Middle East, while Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni Arab states, backed by the United States, are making efforts to see the ouster of the beleaguered government there.
This equation, according to diplomatic sources, presents a daunting task for Pakistan striving to maintain the delicate balance in its relationship with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Sources said that Iran was unhappy with Pakistan’s support for a recent UN Security Council resolution against the Syrian regime. The move indicated Islamabad’s stance on an issue that could have far-reaching implications.
Tehran also voiced its displeasure through diplomatic channels on Pakistan’s participation in the upcoming extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
A key point on the agenda of the Saudi-convened OIC moot is to garner support of member states from across the Muslim world for a regime change in Syria.
“This OIC summit is a US-backed Saudi initiative to isolate Iran,” said Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, Jinnah fellow at the Oxford University, London.
Reports indicate that the US along with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni Arab countries are backing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels fighting the Assad regime.
“If efforts were aimed at seeking regime change through force then we need to be very careful.” Dr Ishtiaq added.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Foreign Office official said Islamabad had backed the recent resolution by the UN Security Council after its main demands were met.
The official explained that Pakistan has made it clear that it will not support any military intervention. However, Islamabad is under pressure from Saudi Arabia to adopt a clearer stance on Syria. Sources said that recently Riyadh released $100 million in grant money for Islamabad, in what appears to be a way to lure Pakistan into supporting Saudi efforts.
President Zardari not only willingly accepted the invitation last week to attend the conference but his media office also issued a statement praising the role of King Abdullah as a ‘visionary’ leader in the Muslim world.
To allay Iran’s concerns, his associates said, the president sent Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Bokhari to Tehran to assure Iranian leaders that Pakistan might not go too far in supporting the Saudi plans.Meanwhile, policymakers in Islamabad fear Pakistan would have to bear the brunt of any future Arab-Iran conflict in the form of segmentation of its society on sectarian lines.
“We need a balanced and workable approach to avoid any negative fallout from the ongoing situation,” said one official.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2012.
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All anti saudis and anti americans can u guys ask Iran to give us 150 millions i bet clever persian foxy will say oh no we cant hear u.
Obviously Pakistan can't serve two masters at the same time. It has to do its cost/benefit analysis carefully, before it decides out of pragmatic point of view. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are important to Islamabad. Pakistan gets cheaper fuels from Iran and goodwill from Saudi Arabia.
Actually , Pakistan supported America during attack on Afghanistan. Pakistan airbases and supplies were used and given to America.
Iran did not do this
Pakistan should not physically interfere in Syrian issue at government and military level. But it should allow its people to choose a side and support their side in whatever way they want to including support by money, weapons or personnel. Parliament can pass resolution to end violence and bloodshed of civilians by Assad's regime or they can use diplomatic means to convince Assad for ending violence.
Remain neutral? None of our concern? Strange. Then why do we pretend to be so personally tortured when the Palestinian issue comes up? Show some consistency! If what goes on in Syria is none of our concern, then it should also not concern us what Israel does to Palestinians! In fact, let's initiate diplomatic ties with Israel. It isn't going anywhere anyway!
The Syrian regime has been guilty of heinous crimes against humanity throughout the Assad regimes (Bashar and Hafiz). As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the next two years, it our moral obligation to take a position on matters of security, and safety of humans (not just Muslims!). Of course it would be highly preferable if we could start at home and stop the killings of Balochs.
It would be in the interest of Pakistan to stay neutral in this case.
Forget the Saudi's, Chinese, American's etc --- why not take a principled stand and stick with for a change. Assad is as bad as they come - slaughtered something like 14,000 of his own citizens so he can avoid an election. The writings on the wall for Assad - he's walking dead and probably already knows it.
This article makes no sense whatsoever. Every other newsoutlet states that Pakistan is leaning towards the China/Russia/Iran camp since they have abstained from every motion that hints at Foreign intervention in Syria. It is due to this, that Saudi Arabia offered Pakistan $100 million- to lean Pakistan away, something Pakistan is yet to do. Add to that Saudi cash also has to do with showing Pakistan that Saudis are not leaning towards India.
Saudi never say or do any thing unless America order them. We should be very careful in dealing with them. Its proven and understood that we are next after Syria and Iran to be ruined.
@ Jibran, I think you meet with trash all the time. I have met many Suadis and found them very reasonalbe and civilized. They love Pakistan more than we love Saudi Arabia. Its always some exceptions when humans encounter at individual levels. One million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and helping both countires and their families. My request to Government of Pakistan is that we should do whatever is best for our people and country. Why would we care these dying regimes when our best friends are against them too. The days of Assad regime and Mullah's rule in Iran is numbered. The people of these two countries want freedom and we must stand with the people, not with killers.
Pakistan should support Syrian freedom fighters ..... but not for pleasing Saudia ........ We should support them for sake of Humanity, Democracy and Islam. We should Support Arab people, not there dictators and monarchs. we should follow Turkey style policy about Mid East ...... Support for Islamist Democrats (Muslim brotherhood) ...........
Saudia Arab is a real friend of Pakistan and Iran is desperately trying to buy out pakistan with gas pipe line and other projects,Iran is supporting the killing of innocent sunnis in Syria,Iran has never been a wellwisher of Pakistan.Saudia Arab Zindabaad.
There is a all out war looming ahead. 100 million or 100 billion will not make a difference if the country is on fire from within and outside !! But who cares as long as the money keeps coming !
The decision should be based on whether Alwaati regime is being Cruel to their people (I for one thinks so) and not on what Saudi Arabia or Iran wants.
Its the money governing everywhere. The current rebels will not stop whatever ways the Syrian government adopt to satisfy them. Their prime aim is to revolt current regime as they are getting money on the name of this. As $100 million make Pakistan ready to support S. Arabia same is the case with these rebels. We should follow an independent foreign policy but for that we need years of sincere efforts to reform our deteriorating economy.
We should not be part of any CIA attempts to destabilize Syria. After Syria we are the next target anyway so why not Stop them At Syria?
Pakistan should remain neutral in this end game. I mean why should we side with any country in this standoff.
One point of this story with which i completely agree is that this standoff will fuel sectarian divide. This is dangerous for Pakistan.
Pakistan must has its foreign policy on mutual respect basis and it should put its interest on top of everything. Pakistani interests must be protected on all costs and we should shun the diplomacy of $, then we can have some respect in the community of nations.
With or without grant, looking at recent history how the "arab spring" is taking place, now makes more sense. Western world out to make wholesale regime changes in middles east, all of those who stand against its designs in the name of free will. One by one every dictator in the region, without looking into more deeply acting exactly how they expected to act. If they turn the tables, transfer power on their own to deserving people in the country, I guess they can fend off results of this so called "Arab Spring"! Saudi will have to obey US and if they don't, they will be next on the list! and they will be once they are used!
Instead of looking at this whole issue on country to country basis, OIC should act to protect interests of whole Muslim world and come stronger with a strategy instead of firefighting!
@Prius: Yeah yeah yeah...and in Iran when * women are reaped by Basit Millitia....Govt put the blame on raped women for being immodestly dressed....
both saudi arabia and iran are the worst options. but I know pakistan would go for saudi arabia, our big brother who has given us the gift of militancy and wahibism.
US has taught Saudis how to deal with us. Cash grant is certainly better than oil on deferred payment. Lets not forget, this year we got Saudi dates too! Has anyone tasted?
Syrian army is bombing its own civilans without any hesitation whatso ever. And why does Iran and hizbullah support Syria, we all know (do i need to tell this). To be honest If somebody makes an argument that Pakistan hasn't been like Iran. It doesn't need to. Iran's political/regional/global ambitions are driven more by sectral dynamics. So has been in Syria.
A "Catch 22 situation", but the question remains,"Is it by compulsion or by choice?" The reply to this query shall help in crafting a way forward on this, seemingly, impasse.
I have never seen a Saudi disrespect a pakistani in my 30 years here I dont know where people get the Idea and for all the tribune reporting i think they forgot to mention that President of Iran has been officially send an invitation to attend by the King and people understand that the whole world is Puppet to the US in one way or the other ! Plus IRAN is no saint supporting a barbaric regime in Syria and uprising in Bahrain and KSA - Tribune should focus on more meanigful reporting !
Pakistan should learn from its past mistakes, and it should not side any in this conflict. If Pakistan had not involved itself in Afghanistan in 1980s, things would have totally different now for Pakistan.
The majority of religious parties in Pakistan like JI, JUI (F), JUI (S), etc pretend to show that they are anti US. If really they are then they should ask Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to not act like puppets of US and West. Saudis and other arab countries are actually following the agenda of US in middle east
Pakistan is in a catch twenty two situation since it requires support both from SA and Iran. Pakistan has already burnt its hands on Gaddafi and Syria's case is no different as the whole world is against its violent regime therefore it should refrain from supporting Assad and not get further isolated.
Looks like either we choose the Israeli plan of hostile regime surrounding it or we loose Saudi backing.
havd u guys not seen the atrocities of syrian alawite army over people.
Pakistan has to choose either Iran+China+Russia backed Assad regime or America+Turkey+Israel+Saudia Arabia($100mn)+Qatar backed FSA. Zardari should take money from all of them and create a Coalition govt including all.
Don't break with relations with Iran but keep balance because it is in the best interests of Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia & Turkey are among the best friends of Pakistan. Those who are barking must see the history of relationships among these countries.
I've been living in Saudi Arabia for a long long time and I've also been to Pakistan, People are very friendly in KSA and they admire the services of the people of Pakistan working in their country.
"while Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Sunni Arab states, backed by the United States".
Regime change is not good when its backed by united states. Muslim world should sort out their differences by themselves not by someone else dictation. i support Syria, they have full right to crush armed (puppet)rebellion against their govt. Every country would do that even USA. See what Saudis would if same situation arises in KSA, i bet they will be more ruthless.
Pakistan's clear stance should be "we are staying neutral because we have a lot on our plate already" but this cannot happen for obvious reasons.
Government should realize that Iran is our neighbor not Saudi, they should have remained neutral in the Syrian Civil War. After all its non of our concern. Saudi is dividing Muslims on sectarian lines and i fear this could spread in Pakistan as well like wild fire.
$100 million is like selling pretty cheap! Reminds me of the new coming movie "Campaign", where a candidate and his wife talk to a potential donor about a hefty donation.
@Ch. Allah Daad: "Best friends Saudi Arabia"? You talk to Saudis, they use the word "slaves"!
We should take clear stance and stand shoulder to shoulder with our best friends Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Is the money grant all it takes to buy out our principles?
Pakistan like Saudi Arabia is the slave of America
Pakistan has zero significance to region and is a slave of NATO
Pakistan gives NATO supplies
Iran does not give NATO supplies
Iran knows Pakistan is a slave country
Saudis are puppets of foreign powers,Pakistan needs to make a good balanced diplomatic decision,not only Iran but also Pakistan's neighbors like China and Russia will have very unhappy attitude towards Pakistan if any diplomatic mistake occurs,Pakistani foreign ministry needs to learn from Indians to have a balance relationship with everyone including Israel.
"Riyadh released $100 million in grant money for Islamabad"
Iran should have learned by now how Pakistan Foreign Policy works. We side with the highest bidder. Only way to gain Pakistani support now is to grant 150 million dollars.
We need to stop making our foreign policy hostage to money grants.