Saudi Arabia has always been the most cordial friend of Pakistan and both countries seem to enjoy the warm relations. Common faith, oil and Pakistan’s strategic position in the region help both countries to stick together in all fields especially politics, economy, security and religious matters. King Abdullah’s statement reported in a research study “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are more than strategic partners and more than brothers” clearly indicates the in-depth interests of both countries attached to each other.
Pakistan being an energy deficient country receives billions of dollars oil wealth from Saudi Arabia to run its economy on late payments. Around 60% of foreign remittances come through over 1.5 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia and UAE seem to be a life blood for Pakistan’s economy. The bilateral trade volume has gone above US$ 4 billion per annum and mounting every year. Saudi Arabia and UAE pour millions of US Dollars either through proper channel or improper channel to Pakistan’s religious schools and religious militants annually.
Due to common faith and regional interests, both countries remained close allies fighting against communism during ‘80s and played pivotal role in promoting Taliban rule in Afghanistan. During 1990-1991 crises in gulf, Pakistan sent 11,000 troops to protect the religious sites in Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia after series of nuclear tests in 1998 promised to supply 50,000 barrels per day of free oil to help Pakistan to cope with economic sanctions.
Owing to its geo-political interests, Saudi government has always shown great interest in the affairs of Pakistan and has always expressed its suspicions if any regime in Pakistan shows little interest towards Iran or pro-Shia policies. During past five years, bilateral relations between Saudi and PPP led government were reported to be at the lowest point. The scale of the bilateral relations can easily be imagined by January 2009 cable reported by Time Magazine in which King Abdullah describes Zardari “the ‘rotten head’ that was infecting the whole body”. And handing over of a Mumbai attack suspect to India in 2012 was another sign of displeasure with PPP led government by Saudi authorities.
The recent suicide bombings on ANP, targeted killings of MQM election candidate and killing threats to PPP by Taliban and other religious militant groups raise some serious questions on holding of free and fair elections in Pakistan. The attacks on the certain political parties are considered to be a very clear malicious designs of the invisible forces employed to intentionally hinder some political parties from the electoral process and to convey a simple message to other political parties to face “punishment” if they refuse to comply with the Sheikh agenda in Pakistan.
Conspiracy theorists believe that a stage is being set to get Nawaz Sharif re-elected as prime minister to provide full protection to Sheikh agenda and to help prolong the rule of the elite ruling class in Pakistan. Eight years self-exile in Saudi Arabia was enough time for Nawaz Sharif to win 20 bullet-proof vehicles for the election campaign and the trust of the Imam-e-Ka’aba to win elections 2013, if it takes place.
Meanwhile some believe that Imran Khan is another emerging potential candidate for prime ministerial slot but he due to some unknown reasons hasn’t been able to visit Makkah to get special blessings from Imam-e-Ka’aba, which puts him on Plan-B to counter Nawaz Sharif, if he doesn’t serve the purpose. Many suggest Imran Khan to visit Makkah at earliest possible as road to Islamabad goes from Makkah.
In Pakistan, many believe that PML-N will get a simple majority in the national assembly to form government with its pro-Saudi parties particularly JUI-F, Jamat Islami, Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba and other extreme militant religious groups, which will later on result in promoting religious hatred, sectarian violence and attacks on minorities especially Shias in the country. In the meantime, Wahabism and Talibanization mind-set will get flourished which will not only cause law and order problems in the country but also cause tension beyond the borders. PML-N government with the support of the Saudi influence may rein the killing activities of the religious militant groups within the country but the teaching, nature and mind set of them will not prevent them to stay calm beyond the borders. Let’s suppose If the religious militant groups stay inactive in Pakistan due to some pressure or agreement, many believe they will get started interfering in Afghanistan, Iran, China, Central Asia and of course India. Past five years of Nawaz Sharif government in Punjab province provides ample evidence in controlling Shia killings and Taliban killing activities in Punjab but let the Shia’s blood spill outside the province by providing full impunity to the terrorists in Punjab.
Extreme religious elements will possibly cause trouble to Nawaz Sharif in maintaining good relations with Iran, Afghanistan, India and Central Asian countries. China may also start complaining to Pakistan again regarding religious activities in Xinjiang province especially. On the other hand, Saudi support to religious groups will likely put extra pressure on Nawaz Sharif to align him with Sheikh agenda which will cause further internal and external security threats to Pakistan. The current Iran-Pakistan gas project will possibly go into the cold storage which will of course affect Pak-Iran bilateral relations in the region especially after NATO drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.
Nawaz Sharif’s electoral alliance with terrorist organizations such as Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat, Leshkar-e-Jhangvi and other extreme militant religious groups which are involved in the killings of thousands of minorities especially Shias—Hazaras throughout Pakistan have caused serious concerns to the human rights organizations. Now, the question arises, will the forthcoming elections be acceptable to the international community in presence of terrorist organizations and can it be declared free and fair elections if suicide bombings of Taliban remain continue on secular political parties to refrain them from the election process in Pakistan?
Originally published on Outlook Afghanistan newspaper on 29th of April 2013.