Much has already been said about the Prime Minister’s secret $1.5 billion deal with Saudi Arabia – mostly questions of what was promised in exchange for such a dear sum. However, equally important is to look at the secret deal as part of a larger reorientation of the country away from partnerships with the West, and what the new partnerships could mean for our future.
Soon after accepting Saudi Arabia billions, Nawaz Sharif’s government made an important announcement: Pakistan is abandoning the ‘Friends of Democratic Pakistan’ group of Western donors. In its place, Nawaz has established ‘Pakistan Development Fund’ as a place for Muslim countries to put their money. According to one government offical:
“Saudis were finding out suitable place to put their dollars in order to show their annoyance with the USA in the aftermath of changing geo-political situation in the Middle East.”
What exactly is Saudi Arabia’s annoyance?
Crown Prince Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy prime minister, speaking at the opening of the annual Arab summit in Kuwait, stressed the need for more support for rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
While the US may willing to provide humanitarian assistance, Saudi Arabia is looking for something a little more…well…impactful. Coincidentally, such help may be on its way.
This reorientation away from the West towards Saudi Arabia could be leading towards a particularly dangerous path.
If Saudi Arabia which practices Wahabbism – an extreme form of Sunni Islam – gets its way, it could put more Muslim states on a collision course with Shia Iran. It would also involve them in taking sides in the Shia-Sunni divide that has escalated recently and has already plunged the Middle East and Pakistan into sectarian bloodbaths.
Saudi Arabia has put into effect a sweeping counter-terrorism law that human rights activists say allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.
The law states that any act that “undermines” the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism. It also grants security services broad powers to raid homes and track phone calls and internet activity.
Tens of thousands of Pakistanis are being killed by jihadi terrorists, and as America prepares to leave, relations between Pakistan and Iran are becoming increasingly tense. America and the West may not have the solutions to all of Pakistan’s problems, but reorienting towards Saudi Arabia could actually make them worse.