The following piece was originally published by Express Tribune on 12th April 2015 but was removed from their website reportedly on the orders of a government official. We are re-posting the piece here for informational purposes only.
So finally the mouse has roared.
Parliament “desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive role to end the crises,” declares the resolution passed by the joint session of parliament. Whoa!
And then comes the naked, blatant, shameless threat from the rich Arab sheikhs. Speaking to Khaleej Times, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash warned Pakistan of having to pay a “heavy price” for taking on what he called an “ambiguous stand”. He said Pakistan should take a clear position “in favour of its strategic relations with the six-nation Arab Gulf Cooperation Council”
Then this Arab sheikh vomited a gem: “The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries.” Really?
So here’s the deal: for once Pakistan does not dance to the unmelodious Arab tune, and the oil-spoilt sheikhs blow a top. Well, good for us. The sheikhs can choke on their fury for all we care. This sheikh called Gargash is some non-entity whose threats we should swat like troublesome flies. But this man’s annoying words are a true reflection of the attitude that these tinpot Arab rulers harbour towards Pakistan. Their ingrained racism towards us cannot be disguised by their meaningless rhetoric about Islamic brotherhood. But the veneer of this hypocrisy is as thin as their purported friendship. These sheikhs think they have bought this country of 180 million people like they buy their gold-plated Rolls Royces. Perhaps, that’s why they have the temerity, and the cheek, to expect that we will sell the lives of our soldiers for their oil-drenched dollars. Given a choice, our rulers may have obliged them. Thank God they were never given a choice.
So now our resolution has hit this Gargash man like a stinging slap. That’s 180 million pairs of Pakistani hands slapping this Arab cheek till it turns crimson with fury, and shame. Go threaten someone else, Doctor Gargash — this nation has had enough of the likes of you and your weakling sheikhs. What good are your billions of dollars if you cannot even defend yourself?
The problem with these sheikhs and their razzle dazzle sheikhdoms is that money has not bought them wisdom. These piddling sheikhs have won a divine geological lottery that has catapulted them from camels to Ferraris. They dug their wealth, and never learnt how to create it. They then proceeded to outsource wisdom to the West while they themselves struggle to outgrow their own medieval tribal outlook towards life, the world, and Pakistan.
“The Arabian Gulf is in a dangerous confrontation, its strategic security is on the edge, and the moment of truth distinguishes between the real ally and the ally of media and statements,” Gargash tweeted sarcastically. The UAE foreign ministry retweeted this Gargash’s naked threat. A minister saying something on a public forum cannot be construed as expressing his personal opinion. The Foreign Office of his sheikhdom endorsing the statement through a retweet makes it as official as official can be. Now if a bigger sheikh decides to axe this smaller sheikh for his extremely provocative, irresponsible and poisonous statement, one can assume it was a personal opinion of an errant knave. But if this Gargash sheikh retains his job, we should be clear about the message and its threat from the sheikhs who rule this giant oil well.
A threat is only serious when it’s credible. And can hurt. This oildom can hurt us economically if it directs its petty viciousness at the Pakistanis who work there and transmit precious foreign exchange home. Yes it will hurt if this financial stream is disturbed. But this should also be a wake-up call for this nuclear-armed nation. I mean, how pathetic is this situation where a tiny piddly tribal oildom can push around a hulking 180 million strong nation boasting a standing army of nearly half a million? Yes this is the depth to which we have been flung by shortsighted, visionless incompetent patronage-driven leaders who are used to eating the crumbs thrown their way from the sheikh’s tables.
So why blame nobodys like this Gargash when we ourselves have inflicted economic weakness on ourselves and forced our dependency on these piddly sheikhdoms. We may have the big guns and the nukes that go with them, but butter? No, that’s where warped priorities bite us like a reptile on steroids.
Ask yourself: are we less dependent on these piddly sheikhdoms than we were five years ago? Ten years ago? In other words, are we better off economically in real terms so that we do not have to grovel in front of these oily sheikhs? Have these elected mandarins who sit atop our rotting patronage-based system undertaken any basic structural reforms to improve the economy? Is the tax system better? Have the public-sector enterprises, i.e., PIA, Steel Mills, etc. been restructured and reformed so they stop bleeding billions of rupees? Has a growth strategy been formulated and implemented? Have non-development expenditures been slashed? Will any of this be done any time soon?
The answer starts with an ‘N’ and ends with an ‘O’. With half their term over, the Sharifs are now focusing on winning the next elections. This means the time for tough decisions and restructuring is over, the period for wasteful, inefficient, populist measures has arrived. You want reform? Wait till 2018. At the least. And pray for an electoral miracle.
In the meanwhile, let’s at least celebrate that even empty stomachs can boast of puffed-up chests. The Pakistani parliament has taken the right decision for the right reasons, and if Gargash and his fellow sheikhs don’t like it, they can go jump into their oil wells. Who knows, this may save them the trouble of fighting for their own honour, with their own troops.
The writer is Executive Director News, Express News. He tweets @fahdhusain