Capital flight

For a nation that has witnessed severe Sunni-Shia discord, it is crucial to remain neutral in the Middle East

Capital flight
Islamabad is colloquially known as the ‘Abode of Peace’ and sometimes gives a misleading impression of being the capital of a nation at the vortex of terror.  Few could blame it for doing so, as it is nestled beneath the magnificent Margalla Hills and boasts an incredible infrastructure. It is however, the center of a country that is embroiled in a fragile peace process with ‘stakeholders’, such as the TTP. Yet, with far flung capitals in the Arabian peninsula such as Riyadh, having a fair say in uplifting the country from a state of economic ‘free-fall’ in recent times; it seems as if the influx of Saudi dignitaries along with the 1.5 billion dollars as munificence, could well and truly leave a footprint which goes beyond ‘cosmetic’ economic prosperity for the country, let alone the capital. For the idealists, this predilection does border on the preposterous. For the realists however, the recent spate of attacks in Homs and Damascus which continue to rock Riyadh, Washington and Tel Aviv, hints at a gesture which certainly goes beyond redressing economic stagnation.

Any historian can proudly credit Pakistan for pursuing a ‘non-interventionist’ foreign policy as far as dealing with myopic conflicts in the Arab world is concerned. These conflicts however, have stirred emotions amongst student lobbies boiling with ‘anti-Semitism’, in an array of universities across the country; but at the national level they have always elicited a neutral response from Islamabad, which goes to our country’s credit. Yet with the Syrian crisis threatening to bring back vague flashbacks of Cold War adventurism in the Arab peninsula, Saudi stakes could never be high as a champion of Islam which maintains regional order.  In light of this, the Kingdom’s art of cajoling a state which boasts significant military prowess and clout such as Pakistan cannot be ruled out, particularly in times when the conflict in Syria continues to augment in scope and magnitude. A ‘Pro-Saudi stance adopted by the Nawaz government, in exchange for munificence provided by the Salafi-Wahhabi monarchy could thus, be the antidote for diffusing a conflict which has considerable regional and international implications in their view.

[quote]The euphoria that surrounds the falling dollar could well and truly be short lived[/quote]

After all, the cornerstone of Saudi ‘interventionism’, focuses on capping a Syrian regime on the pretext of the latter’s refusal to initiate political reform. In essence, the threat narrows down to the Socialist Baath Party and its ‘Alawite’ disposition, which threatens internal tranquility in a diverse nation with a multitude of religious affiliations. Such a regime which is also backed by Iran and Russia is also viewed by the Saudis to be a threat to increased American ‘investment’ in the peninsula and would hence mandate immediate attention by necessitating the process of garnering support from nations with plenty of military clout and influence such as Pakistan. Advocacy for regimes which denounce outfits such as the Muslim Brotherhood and at the same time fomenting antagonism  against regimes considered to be ‘despotic’ has been an ideal ‘Saudi’ characteristic if one looks back at their recent history, and caging Pakistan as a long term strategic ally, would be the icing on the cake for Riyadh in such times.

In addition, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and conspiracies which center around an arms deal for the Kingdom stokes another fascinating debate. Would potential military trainers, as conspiracy theorists would put it, and equipment provided by the Nawaz government, be used to undertake pernicious adventures in Syria, which has already borne the brunt of rampant sectarian strife? If that really is the case, what impact would this have on the prevailing situation of ‘Shia-Sunni’ discord in our country? These questions become even more relevant in times when we are pursuing a fragile and crippled negotiations process with an entity that challenges the writ of the state and relations with Iran also continue to sour, with the latter threatening to embark on ‘hot pursuit’ to hunt down Sunni militants in our territory.

For a nation that has witnessed severe Sunni-Shia discord and faces continuous security challenges, it is crucial to retain our element of neutrality as far as inter-Arab conflicts are concerned. In times when Saudi Kings visit the cream of the bureaucratic brass in Islamabad, the euphoria that surrounds the falling dollar could well and truly be short lived, if it is just a dress rehearsal for active engagement or vehement criticism directed at the Syrian regime to follow. For Pakistan and Pakistanis alike, one can hope that our capital stays where it is and continues to boast about being the Abode of Peace instead of the Abode of Islam.