Talking peace: (Are we) All the Saudi king’s men?

Published: April 11, 2015
A file photo of Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. PHOTO: REUTERS

A file photo of Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The National Assembly has decided Pakistan will not partake in the Yemen conflict. We will only play a mediatory role, declared the lawmakers. The motion came after five days of debate on the Yemen crisis, in which the majority of lawmakers urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif not to send Pakistani forces to join the fight.

There are those who believe this resolution is just lip-service and that Pakistan has already agreed to provide military assistance to its rich ally – Saudi Arabia. “Pakistan simply cannot say no to the Saudis,” said Zafar Hilaly, the former ambassador to Yemen, at a discussion on the Yemen conflict organised by HIVE Karachi on Thursday. “And a country you cannot say no to has no respect for your people or policies.”

For Hilaly, the fundamental reason why Pakistan finds itself in a mess today is because it could never get along with its neighbours. “Our dealings with them have always been tinged with racism, fear, paranoia and now, sectarianism.”

Muhammad Hussain Mehanti, a former Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Karachi chapter, reiterated his party’s stance that Pakistan should not get directly involved in the conflict. “The Saudis have acted against international norms. They have no right to interfere in the internal matters of another sovereign country,” he said. “Neither does Pakistan.” He lamented the air raids by the Saudi government and its allies, which invariably killed hundreds of innocent people in Yemen.

Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, the dean of social sciences at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Business and Technology, does not believe there are any threats to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity. “This is not a sectarian conflict, as is being projected by popular media,” he reasoned. “It is a civil war in Yemen and the Saudis want to exert their own force by using the excuse that the rebellion could pour into their country.” For Shaikh, the conflict must be looked at through economic and geopolitical factors. “What threats can a country, with a meagre defence budget of under USD2 billion, pose to the Saudis who spend more than USD70 billion on defence?” he questioned.

Another panellist, Junaid from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, laid it bare. “In politics, there are friendships,” he explained. “There are strategic interests.” For Junaid, Pakistan’s foreign policy is dictated not by politicians but by ‘other players’ who will do what they want, when they want, despite what the lawmakers have decided.

The debate heated up when a civil society activist, Khurram Zaki, was given the chance to speak. With his back towards JI’s Mehanti, Zaki went on a roll about how Saudi Arabia had engaged in its own proxy war and funded the spread of extremism in Pakistan. “There are thousands of madrassahs in Pakistan that are directly funded by the Saudis,” he screamed. He summed up his view of the conflict in the following words: “A country that has no respect for humanitarian laws or democracy wants to preach democracy to its neighbouring country.” The audience broke into applause.

Hilaly ridiculed Saudi claims that Hadi was the legal President of Yemen. “If Hadi is the legal President, we should be talking to the Red Indians instead of Washington,” he quipped. The former ambassador does not believe Pakistan will stay out of the conflict. “There is no deep state. Whoever pays money, gets our services,” he said. “We are mercenaries who even fought for the British.”

At the end of the discussion, when Hilaly was asked what he thought would be Pakistan’s future course of action, he was quite candid in his response. “Asif Ali Zardari was asked about his political philosophy. His response was enlightening of Pakistan’s political landscape. ‘Every man has a price and I am prepared to pay it.’” It remains to be seen what price the Yemen conflict fetches for the politicians of Pakistan and what miseries for its people.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2015.


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Reader Comments (10)

  • Salman - SK
    Apr 11, 2015 - 2:10AM

    Well, Odysseus has finally found his Ithaca. These are interesting comments coming from people who have served the Pakistani establishment quite faithfully for years. But, this time Ambassador Hilaly seems to be right.

    Saudi Arabia is a kingdom ruled as a family business from their base in Najd where 28% of Saudis live. Their strategic business and political interests are alarmed by the rising political consciousness among the Houthi tribe in Yemen, who are demanding their due share of political power in the Yemeni dynamics. The southern provinces of Saudi Arabia abutting Northern Yemen has large populations of tribes that share the same beliefs as the Houthis. The Sharqia province in Saudia Arabia, where most of the oil reserves are, also has a population belonging to the same school of thought, concentrating around Qatif and al-Hasa. And, this is 2015…………… easier transportation, faster communication and information, and people have the gall to ask for their political and human rights. It was easier in 1925, when Saudis rose to power, to keep the other 80 percent of the population subdued. So, it’s easy to see that there is tempest brewing in the tea cup. Though unlikely, I am hoping that Pakistani government will make the right decision at least once in the long history of Pakistan, and stay away from backing the wrong side.Recommend

  • Chaigram
    Apr 11, 2015 - 6:33PM

    To all Arabs pakistani is cheap labour and nothing else. Without any exceptions, they are ‘Siddique’s’ , ‘miskeen’ to be kept at a distance and treated with disgust. It was pathetic to see a pakistani doctor working in Saudi arabia trying to explain how he is treated differently.
    This Muslim brother slogan is nothing but hogwash.
    It is nauseating to see Saudi’s trying to impress the western nationals specially their women.
    Pakistani’s have to keep their respect and stay away from this conflict, which is basically trying to protect the monarchies of the Arab regions.
    No one is attacking any country and there is territorial dispute to resolve, only self interests. It will be wise for the Arabs to sit down and talk ………Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 11, 2015 - 11:57PM

    Pakistanis have proved that word “Miskeen” fits their character. If were their brothers, we would have gone to them unconditionally. As beggars and salves do we put our price and finally decided to stay neutral because price was not right. Is this how a brother treats a brother? Also shame on Pakistani intellectuals, writers, elite and leaders who brainwashed us with brotherhood slogans and when time came these cowards decided to stay neutral. They were the one who got thousands of free Umras, feasts and cash. Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Apr 12, 2015 - 1:13AM

    Yes their is family rule in Saudi Arabia, UAE and also in Pakistan. Their is no conflict between Iran and Arabian Countries. These rulers are scared because of developments in every field in Iran having a strong democracy. So called Shia Iran is first to help Sunni Gaza and Palestine. Whereas Sunni Arabs acted like bhigi billy against Israel.Please Pakistani rulers wake up.Recommend

  • ghazal
    Apr 12, 2015 - 7:28AM

    Pakistan obsession or perceived threat has to moderate other wise Pakistan will always be dictated by others. can any Arab threaten any other country like this, Bangladesh, Egypt or Malaysia?will Arab change their their relations with India if Pakistan go all out for them?Recommend

  • AMIR
    Apr 12, 2015 - 8:15AM

    Free petrol was not free after all. self created disillusion is foundation of Pakistani foreign , economic, social and educational policies. you reap what you sow.LET YOURSELF USED AS serf, will be used as serfRecommend

  • Apr 12, 2015 - 9:00AM

    why pakistani media is so pro-iranian regime, despite iranian regime’s involvement in human rights abuses and orchestrating one of the worst genocide and crimes against humanity in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq against innocent sunni muslims. Ayatollas has left israel and serbs looking much benign and humane. so lets step back and ask are we all terrorists for criminal and terrorist regime of Shia Iran?!Recommend

  • Rao Amjad Ali
    Apr 12, 2015 - 1:35PM

    For more than four decades now, contemporary Arabia has relied on inexpensive skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled Pakistani labor market. The asymmetric terms of trade in this market created a slave mentality both among Pakistani guest workers and their leaders back home.

    The bogus Islamic brotherhood card was played by the House-of-Saud to firm-up Saudi funding for Pakistan first to sponsor the Afghan jihad and subsequently thousands of Wahabi madaris that have since served as fertile breeding ground for pervading Islamic fundamentalism in the Pakistani heartland.

    Keeping in view that for the most part, barring Iran, the Muslim Ummah has shown criminal neglect towards the Palestinians, the Saudis shouldered US policy in the Arab-Israel conflict and to add insult to injury, Zia-ul Haq oversaw a military campaign against Palestinian camps in Jordan, the Pakistani Parliaments decision to stay away from Yemen is a welcome development. Recommend

  • AXH
    Apr 13, 2015 - 7:01AM

    @Salman – SK: – Very well said.Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Apr 21, 2015 - 2:52AM

    @Yazeed: On TV and world show a different view. These are Jihadis, IS Daish killing people. Beheading them. Demolishing mosques and churches. They did not spare the grave of a Sahabi. I saw a disgusting picture a Jihady eating heart of a Muslim. There is rebellion and Government is fighting and so we are fighting with Talibans. Shia Iran supported Sunni Palistine in Gaza war. Who supplied them rockets and its technology that they stood against Israel. The same Israel defeated combined army of all Arab countries. . Go to Iran and see how minorities are treated there. Incidently Hotees are not Shias. Similarly our Hotis in KPK are also not ShiaRecommend

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