Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Absurdity of Pak fighting in Yemen

The Saudi Arabia-led campaign to stop Iran-allied Shia-rebels in Yemen from taking control of the whole country has turned into a full-blown International escalation, with Iran today sending in much-needed supplies to the rebels even as Sana'a continues to be bombed by Saudi-led forces. The US is dithering as its focus remains on concluding a nuclear agreement with Iran, over the objections on both Israel and Saudi Arabia. After over a decade of war that has brought nothing but misery to the US, President Obama seems determined to keep his country out of the Shia-Sunni brew that is the new great game in the region.

If only Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif has that luxury though. It is no secret that Saudi Arabia, after the US, is the main paymaster of the Pakistani establishment, providing them with cheap oil, soft loans, outright aid and even protection to its leaders, as Sharif himself has used. In return, it is well-known that the Pakistani armed forces, including its nuclear weapons, are to be kept ready for use by Saudi Arabia whenever required. Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq once claimed Pakistan would be the 'sword arm of Islam' - it ended up becoming the mercenary of Saudi Arabia instead.

This is the worst possible time for Pakistan to get involved in a confrontation anywhere in the world, least of all in an expeditionary mission when it has no expertise in how to run one. After the murder of over a hundred school children in Peshawar, Pakistan has finally begun to take on the terrorists holed up in KP and FATA - the global epicenter of terrorism. At the same time, Punjab-based anti-Shia outfits like the LeJ are also being tackled by Pakistan, after infinite dithering. The country just received its latest trench of money from the IMF to keep its collapsed economy afloat. In all this, it seems very stupid to indulge in what is basically a sectarian war in Yemen and to devote its limited resources there. Short of using nuclear weapons - which the US will not allow it to do - the Pakistani army will just be cannon fodder in the Gulf of Aden.

Moreover, Pakistan's relationship with Iran is quite difficult as it is and the last thing Islamabad needs is trouble on its western border, since the eastern one is a source of unending self-inflicted pain anyway. While Pakistan has tried to make peace with Afghanistan so that it can tackle India without distractions, becoming a proxy for a larger war with Iran is the last thing it needs. And yet, it seems Sharif actually knows and understands all of this and yet still dithers.

Saudi princes come to Pakistan to hunt a certain bird, whose hunting is outlawed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. That alone says a lot about what the Saudis think of Pakistan. Ultimately, and unfortunately for the Pakistani people, it will be the dealings between the Saudi Arabian leaders and the Pakistani Army that will make the final decision in this case - the democratically-elected government is, as it has always been, just a cover. 

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