Khaled AlmaeenaKhaled Almaeena

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday denied that Pakistan has been given a wish list by Saudi Arabia but reiterated that the Pakistani army is committed to act upon any aggression against the Kingdom. He added that despite the appearance of friction with Gulf countries over Pakistan’s stance on the Yemen conflict, talks with the Saudi leadership were held in a cordial environment. He further added that the strong bond of friendship that ties both countries will be strengthened further. There had been many speculative remarks after the Pakistani Parliament resolution on Yemen and its insistence that no troops should be sent to join the military operations in that country. However, both the government and all Pakistani parties expressed openly that any aggression on Saudi Arabia would not go unchallenged, meaning that they are fully committed to defend Saudi soil. Unfortunately, some Gulf writers and analysts not familiar with the intricate and complex aspects of domestic and foreign policy in the subcontinent jumped to conclusions and some criticized the resolution with the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash making an unfortunate remark about Pakistan “paying a price”. The naiveté of many of our media analysts makes it sound as if Pakistan has done an about-face vis-à-vis the Gulf which it has not. We should understand that Pakistan is a Bonapartist state where the army even in a democratic environment has a partial say in both domestic and foreign affairs. Parliament has the final say in all policy matters or on any government decision. The Pakistan army has its strengths and its limitations. The army cannot make a move without Parliament’s approval. However, Parliament reiterated that the Pakistan army is committed to fight any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity, but that it did not want to be involved in what many described as a “foreign war” in Yemen. But for all Pakistanis including the army, the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia is a red line. It is also important to note that Pakistan has a thousand mile border with India where the majority of its fighting units are placed. On the western borders are Iran and Afghanistan where it is fighting the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Public opinion in Pakistan is also against any military intervention in Yemen. They fear that the participation in the Yemen conflict could escalate the dangerous levels of sectarian violence in the country. Many political analysts in Pakistan believe that by remaining neutral, they are better placed to act as mediators once the conflict ends. Notwithstanding all this, the government of Nawaz Sharif like all previous governments has not flinched or wavered in its diplomatic support and military commitment to defend Saudi Arabia against any aggression. The Saudi-Pakistani relationship is based on a strong foundation and will continue to be so despite the vagaries of time and the bursts of political and military upheavals in the region. The two countries are strategic allies and have a long history of friendship and mutual interests. All I ask of my media colleagues in the Gulf is not to jump to conclusions and misinform the public. As Alexander Pope wrote in his poem “An Essay on Criticism” (1711): “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” — Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena