Saudi Arabia and Pakistan: We’re all in this together
Saudi Arabia may be a monarchy, but it has imported enough of Pakistani politics to know democracy is (if you’ve said ‘the best revenge’ aloud, you may want to stop watching news channels) a migraine that never goes away.
Let’s forget the fact that KSA has pumped into Pakistan for decades now (a variety of reasons – to fund the mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, loans, gifts, property, hunting) – let’s look at the role they’ve played over the past few years in Pakistani politics.
In 1999, when deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif signed the infamous ‘Get out of Pakistan – Do Not Come Back for 10 years’ card and scampered off with his family to live in the Kingdom, the average Pakistani wondered why the Saudis had let Nawaz stay there and most PML-N opposers couldn’t thank the House of Saud enough. Of course, Jeddah – alike Benazir Bhutto”s haunts of Dubai and London – became the base for PML-N to re-group from the various blows to the party and the loss of confidence in the Sharif brothers.
Now fast forward 10 years, and we’re still talking about the political intrigue in Jeddah. ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’ is an oft-quoted adage that has been stuck to the country since its very creation.
In a bizarre twist of fate, former President/COAS/Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf reportedly flew to KSA this week to ask the Saudis to plead clemency on his behalf to the Pakistani government. While The News quotes sources as saying that the Saudi authorities told Musharraf they couldn’t help and his only way out would be to apologize publicly, it also reports that sources close to Musharraf say that he didn’t go to ask for a pardon. There was also much made of the fact that the former Attorney General of Pakistan also flew into Jeddah at the same time, but really – Musharraf could just meet him anywhere in the world if he wanted to – no?
Even more laughably, the PML-N has issued statements such as ‘KSA can’t deal with the Musharraf case since it has no experience of democracy’ and ‘We shouldn’t involve KSA in our internal affairs’. Of course, time is a great healer and politicians have incredibly selective memories.
But that isn’t the end of the Saudi Arabian saga that has been unfolding this week. Apparently Pakistan has also decided to lease 700,000 acres of farmland to KSA so that they can develop their agricultural resources. This has rankled many Pakistanis, who wonder why the Government can’t just help out Pakistan’s own agricultural sector and conspiracy theorists have taken this as yet another sign of Saudi’s interference in Pakistan. I disagree with the latter – as editorials in Dawn and The News today have rightly pointed out – this is just another sign of how incompetent Pakistani politicians are when it comes to governance that they can’t resolve anything without yelling ‘I have a cunning plan!’ and speed-dialing KSA.
One of these days, the Saudis are going to get fed up of having to deal with politicians bickering (they also have Lebanon and Saad Hariri to worry about, remember?) and just going to bar entry to em all. Perhaps politics would be less migraine-inducing if they did so.