Intro : The Sunni world is feeling let down and betrayed by the stand taken by Pakistan Assembly on the Yemen crisis.
After three days of deliberations by the Pakistan Assembly, Pakistan has decided to remain neutral in the Yemen war calling it a tribal conflict rather than an international or sectarian conflict. The whole of the Sunni world, who looked at Pakistan for the moral as well as muscle support is feeling let down by the stand taken by Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is of course feeling betrayed and disowned by their most reliable ally in the hour of distress, when the country has declared full scale war on the Yemen rebels Houthi, belonging to Shia sect and backed actively by the arch enemy Shia Iran.
As the Sunni President of Yemen President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi took to heels and took asylum in Saudi Arabia, the Houthi rebels marched towards Aden, strategically the most important city in South Yemen. Since the Saudis could not hold back, this time they roped in many kingdoms in the region and two important
countries namely Jordan and Egypt, all Sunni, in the coalition to launch air strikes on the Yemen rebels. However, the name of most important and and the most dependable ally i.e. Pakistan was missing from the list.
Iran, the Shiite Muslim rival of Sunni Saudi Arabia, is thought to be aiding the Houthis, and the conflict in Yemen has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature. After the airstrikes were resumed, Iran officially declared help to the Yemeni rebels dispatching daily two flights of plane load fuel and other aid. The race for supremacy in the Muslim world took the ugly turn in the form of open confrontation between Sunni-Wahabi Saudi Arabia, and Shia Iran and the crisis worsened.
Anybody who has even slight inkling of modern war games will testify that mere air strikes do not help winning war. The foot soldiers, who actually walk on the ground are needed to cover and mop up the area. It is this manpower force that the Saudi Kingdom has been missing. For long Saudis cultivated Pakistan as the most friendly country and most favoured country for almost three decades, and had kept Pakistan contingents as hired army to fight for them. Therefore, as soon as the feelers of Yemen crisis emegrged threats were sent to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to be part of the coalition and to directly participate in the war. Pakistani Government had to relent. Immediately, a high powered delegation was sent to Saudi Arabia to negotiate the deal. (It was to pay back the debt and lifesaving help extended by the Saudi kingdom when Nawaz Sharif was jailed and could have been treated the Bhutto way. Sharif was escorted away to Saudi Kingdom, and was given royal treatment. He was sent back with full support against the Pakistan Army’s will, to reign back power. The Pakistan’s PM could not overlook the favour extended to him, as now it was the time to pay back the debt.)
The delegation came back with demands. Then came the direct and publicised demand for the war planes, warships and the soldiers to fight for the Sunni coalition against the Kafir Shia Iran.
Dithering for support
Pakistan Assembly deliberated on the aid proposal for three days and declared its inability to directly participate, calling it a tribal rather than the sectarian war. Over and above that Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went immediately to Islamabad on April 9 to hold talks with PM Sharif.
It is not that Pakistan has not sent troops on such-alike missions to other countries before. It has been
contributing troops to the UN Peacekeeping mission, but that is a profit making proposition for the Pakistani army as they are highly paid for their services. It fetches them US dollars. So was the case with army contingent deployed to Saudi Arabia as protection force in the peaceful times.
Now when the time has come to really come forward for the master kingdom, Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani Army establishment, the politicians, the Pakistan citizenry, Pakistan's Sunni aawaam have dithered to extend even slightest support to Saudi-Sunni coalition. As stated by the erstwhile national security adviser to Pakistan Government Retd. Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani, even though Saudi Arabia is a “special friend” of both government and military, Pakistani intervention in Yemen will be unwise. “To send our troops to a third country – I think that will be foolhardy,” he said.
Well the conclusion to be drawn is that for the last three decades, Saudis have played fools by supporting Pakistani Army, government and the masses for very many things. It supported the nuclear bomb program although it abrogated the UN convention, by clandestinely exporting the technology to Korea, the avowed enemy of most supportive ally United States. It supported Nawaz, ensuring his installation as the Prime Minister at the cost of Benazir Bhutto’s life. It sustained the common Muslim populous in Pakistan by supporting the Madrassas feeding Mujahideens in hundreds of thousands for the ultimate struggle to establish the supremacy of the Wahabi version of Islam all over the world.
It was a massive investment by Saudi Arabia. But it has gone waste. Nawaz and the Army have taken shelter behind the Parliamentary debate to keep themselves aloof from the conflict. All those Madrassas trained jihadi combatants who were well fed for years during orientation and weapon handling sessions have gone in hiding. Saudis expected them to come on streets in support of Sunni Ummah – the global Sunni brotherhood, and to force both the government and Army to actively participate in the war against Kafir Shias. For even slight provocations, for the Pakistan's Sunni aawaam, the ummah always mattered as long as they were not directly involved. At the moment of critical conflict, the Pakistan's aawaam too has put it foot in mouth and ditched its feeding lord Saudi Arabia.
Long term implications
This betrayal by Pakistan will not go well with Saudis. So far Saudi Arabia’s purses were open for Pakistan. Now they will think twice before giving blank check to Pakistan as it has lost reliability. It was only with their support that Pakistan could maintain its territorial integrity, and Shias in the country could be kept subdued for long.
Fearing that by taking steps against Shia Houthis, it would anger Iran, with whom it shares long porous border along Baluchistan, Pakistan has now impoverished itself of the solid support from Saudis. This will encourage Shias in Pakistan to take to arms. They can now rely on the Iranian support. On the other hand, the Mujahideens will find them at bay as the Saudi doles will soon dry up.
For Pakistan, the sheen of being a World Sunni power is on the edge of being lost. As such the terrorists have found ISIS Caliphate to be more attractive; and with it Pakistan seems to be losing its position of being at the vanguard of the Sunni world. With the oil prices expected to be down to just $30-35 range in near future, the Saudis too will find it hard to squander the precious oil wealth for the renegade Pakistan.
It can be said that, these are the most trying times for Pakistan. The pertinent question now is, how will it sustain itself and feed millions of Madrassa bound youth when they will come on streets asking for basic life necessities. Their weapon training will further exaggerate internal lawlessness. Or, what will happen to the US weapon aid? It too will dry in absence of repayment through Saudis and other Sunni Kingdoms in the coalition.
It is an undeniable fact that the Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims were treated as dogs by the Saudi masters, but now onward they will be shunned like pigs, which the Muslim ummah have tried to keep away as the most abominable animal by the religious injunctions. Such a plight of pariah status will be unbearable to all the Muslims of the South Asian origin.
Dr Pramod Pathak (The writer is a vedic scholar and freelancer)