By Aijaz Ahmed
Although Pakistan has agreed to provide complete support for peace and security of Bahrain where political turmoil continues unabated, the decision might make it pay heavy price in terms of its good neighborly relations with Iran.
“Pakistan has stood and will stand with Saudi Arabia in the interest of peace. Pakistan understands and supports the Saudi stance in the Gulf and Middle East,” Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani told visiting Saudi National Security Council Secretary General Prince Bander Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud who recently concluded his visit to Islamabad.
While peace is being maintained to some extent in the troubled area of Bahrain, the fate of civilian Pakistanis is endangered and unclear. Almost 5000 Pakistanis are forced to live in camps set up by security officials for victims of the bloody clashes between the demonstrators and security forces.
Local residents completely disgrace Pakistanis, many of them were attacked and injured, while some of them are also killed, confirms FO officials. The reason behind their venom is very simple. The first fire opened on the demonstrators, which resulted in the killing of a local demonstrator, was by the gun of a Pakistani soldier employed in Bahrain Police.
It is to remind that almost 65,000 Pakistanis are living in Bahrain and a significant number of them are employed in security forces and police and are responsible for providing security to the knig, royal family their properties, government officials and the official installations.
No Pakistani whether Sunny or Shia will be allowed to live in the mainstream localities and settlements, announced the leaders of the local demonstrators agitating for democracy. Although majority of them are Shia, they have developed very strong sentiments against Pakistan despite the fact that the movement is reportedly being supported by Iran.
The point where Iran entangles with Saudi Arabia is matter of concern for Pakistan in the situation specially for present lot of political leadership, sources in the FO observe. Nawaz Sharif being the personal friend of royal family of holly kingdom and the King himself can not defy the wish of the King Abdullah who fears his own very survival because of this situation, they added.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s reaction to the situation is understandable as the party has had sour relations with the kingdom since the ZA Bhutto was hanged. It is understood that Bhutto family believed that Saudis did not play their due role to save the life of a leader like Bhutto. The sentiment got more stronger among the party cadre and leadership when Nawaz Sharif got a safe passage due to Saudi intervention in 2000.
Saudis during the course of the passing years did not try to remove this misunderstanding, rathe their inclination remained very focused and clear in building strategic relations with Zia, the Pakistan Army and then with Sharif family and another dictator General Musharaf.
PPP, which was being led by a lady of Iranian origin (Begum Nusrat Bhutto) at that time, built good and strong relations with Iran. However, the present government’s dilemma is the strategic interest that has been built in a particular way during the military regime of Zia, subsequent half baked democratic dispensations of BB and Nawaz Sharif and then by General Musharraf.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strategic relationship in many fields. The kingdom is center of Muslim belief, the King is Khadim e Haqrmain Shareefain, Pakistan owe Saudi support in number of areas particularly in view of the support for Pakistan’s nuclear program. Additionally Saudi Arab has special nexus with United States, the FO sources maintain.
Besides Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has been for long time a US stooge in the Gulf region and has been the gracious host for its Fifth Fleet from where US forces keep an eye on oil shipping lines and more importantly Iran, sources add further.
The Fifth Fleet, comprising 30 ships and 2 aircraft carriers, has an operational area covering the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the east coast of Africa. Some 4000 American military personnel live in Bahrain.
|US 5th fleet in Bahrain|
Bahrain has also been provided with latest military equipment including fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, and battle tanks (some of which were used to confront demonstrators), they added
US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen last month visited the oil rich kingdom to reaffirm the American support of the King and his visit was followed by President Obama’s statement in favor of the monarchy.
It is very much evident that when our leaders are talking of importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region in the context of uprising in Bahrain, they are actually referring to securing critical US interests, which otherwise would be seriously threatened in case monarchy is overthrown and Shia majority comes into power, claims an analyst, Baqir Sajjad, at Pak Foreign Policy Blog.
The Saudi prince, towards the end of the meeting, indicated to the prime minister that Riyadh was ready to pay any price to Pakistan for its help in aiding Riyadh deliver its commitment with Washington for protecting US interests in the region.
In response, Pakistan has started providing critical support to guard strategic interests in Bahrain sources claimed and added that a Pak Army contingent is secretly moved to Bahrain, which can provide its services to GCC shield force if required.
In addition, almost 2000 former military personals and fresh but strong built youngsters are hired and will be sent to Bahrain shortly, sources confided. A camp for this purpose was established at a five star hotel of Lahore. The selected persons are being provided a short term but advance training on modern lines so as they can be sent shortly to Manama, Bahrain.
The prime objective of the fresh recruitment was to strengthen security of troubled hit small kingdom of Bahrain, besides they will look after and rehabilitate the displaced Pakistanis, sources maintained.