Pakistan
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Jan Achakzai |

Apparently, an organized social media campaign is in full swing against Pakistan’s principled stance to join Saudi Arabia led security alliance. It seems that the aim of this campaign is to divide Pakistanis and put pressure on Islamabad to revisit its principal decision of joining the Saudi-led alliance in the post-Trump Riyadh summit the Middle East. Gen Raheel Sharif is also being forced to step down as the head of the Security Alliance.

However, my contention in this piece is that it is in Pakistan’s interest to continue to be part of this alliance, of course with certain caveats to safeguard some of its core concerns, while deciding on the TORs of the alliance in the near future.

Read more: Is the Islamic military alliance already in shambles?

Why should Pakistan join this alliance?

Here are the mains reasons why Pakistan should play an important role in KSA-led Military Alliance on terrorism.

Here comes the test of Pakistan’s reliability as a security guarantor for the territorial integrity of the Saudi Arabia in particular, where the nature of the relations between the two countries is unique and different compared to any other nation.

The Islamic military alliance represents 34 of the largest Muslim nations–40 plus countries in the Muslim world are the part of the alliance and few of those are extremely influential countries including some GCC countries,  Egypt and Turkey. Not being present at this platform, Islamabad will lose an important opportunity to be influencing the objectives, goals, and posturing of an alliance of a region where the presence of Pakistan is crucially important.

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Following the uncertainty of the Obama administration’s relations with the Arab and Muslim nations, and Washington’s yawning credibility gap on providing security to some Arab countries like KSA has been the reason why these nations want to take charge of their security instead of relying on foreign powers.

Pakistan has never been isolationist in securing its interests in foreign policy. Historically, it has been a part of Middle East alliances. There are examples such as Gulf War, Baghdad Pact, the Turkey-Iran-Pakistan alliance in the 60s plus 70s, and 1973 war, while Islamabad remains engaged with other security and quasi-security infrastructure,  including US-led NATO alliance, Moscow platform, Kabul process, and quadrilateral forum.

Here comes the test of Pakistan’s reliability as a security guarantor for the territorial integrity of the Saudi Arabia in particular, where the nature of the relations between the two countries is unique and different compared to any other nation.

The overall objective of the alliance is to eliminate all extremist groups active in our region, regardless of sect and nationality or without making any distinction. This must be the main component of its TORs as the alliance further deliberated on the specifics.

Pakistan has never been isolationist in securing its interests in foreign policy. Historically, it has been a part of Middle East alliances. There are examples such as Gulf War, Baghdad Pact, the Turkey-Iran-Pakistan alliance in the 60s plus 70s, and 1973 war, while Islamabad remains engaged with other security and quasi-security infrastructure,  including US-led NATO alliance, Moscow platform, Kabul process, and quadrilateral forum.

Some Pakistani pundits who think that if Islamabad becomes the party of the alliance neglecting the Iranian issue, will be at loss, are plainly wrong!

Read more: Islamic Military Alliance: Has Raheel Sharif become a vassal for the…

Why are they wrong?

The first argument is that Pakistan has a balanced relationship with Saudi Arabia and a unique relation with Iran which is linked geographically to Pakistan. The Pak-Saudi relationship is as important as Sino-Pakistan relationship.

It is also important to note that several major Arab and Non-Arab Muslim nations don’t want Iran to be part of the coalition as many of those have serious bilateral and multilateral issues in their relations with Tehran.

Second, Pakistan has more than 4 million Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia, contributing to KSA’s development and the welfare of the Saudi people. Almost 0.5 million Pakistanis get a job every year in KSA and send more than $6 billion as remittances. Last but not the least KSA has stood by Pakistan through thick and thin.

It is also important to note that several major Arab and Non-Arab Muslim nations don’t want Iran to be part of the coalition as many of those have serious bilateral and multilateral issues in their relations with Tehran. A fact, Pakistan can’t undo! Pakistan’s balanced and logical viewpoint remains that this is an issue for Iran and those countries to resolve.

Read more: Why is Pakistan reconsidering its role in the Islamic Military Alliance

Many Arabs countries including Gulf, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and some major Non-Arab Muslim nations like Turkey, Nigeria, and Malaysia, believe Iran can join the alliance after it stops what they believe meddling in Arab countries. Again, Pakistan cannot change their policies, perceptions, and issues with Iran.

One must understand the fact that just like Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia are not based on any sectarian considerations given the depth, scope, and history, in the same manner, Islamabad’s quest to play a role in KSA led alliance is also not a sectarian issue. Those trying to paint this misconception in sectarian color are simply naive or plain.

Azerbaijan is also one Shia-dominated  Muslim majority country and it supports Islamic military alliance. Morocco’s ruling family follows a branch of Shia sect and is a part of the coalition.

Vested interest groups are trying to undermine Pakistan’s anti-terrorist credentials and security interest at the times when CPEC will be leading almost 17 percent of region’s containerized trade. This trade is vulnerable to ISIS and potentially India-originated attacks.

Azerbaijan is also one Shia-dominated  Muslim majority country and it supports Islamic military alliance. Morocco’s ruling family follows a branch of Shia sect and is a part of the coalition.

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Caveat, to be enshrined in TORs of the alliance, that level of contribution is and should be decided by a member country,  should address Pakistan’s core concerns such as not to put boots on the ground in Yemen or any other country other than Saudi Arabia, alliance not to be used for regime change, not to have anti-Tehran posture, and to exclusively  focus on non-state actors like ISIS.

Let us remind ourselves,  for any Pakistani, his/her loyalty must be to the country,  fellow men & national interests first. For example, nearly $10 billion coming from GCC countries in form of remittances annually, supporting millions of families, is vital for Pakistan’s economy.

As far as Iran is concerned, it is for Tehran, to resolve its issues with major Muslim nations and pundits in Pakistan should not hold Islamabad responsible for Iran’s divergences with other Muslim nations.

Pakistanis also need to be reminded of the fact that Iran-Saudi differences are based on politics, not theology or sectarianism. Yes, sectarianism has been used as a tool for state policy. Pakistanis representing  “constituencies” of both countries and their “influence spheres” should not get dragged as anti-terror NAP policy prohibits such involvement. Islamabad should check such constituencies in case they are found of violating NAP’s red lines, in the context of Saudi-Iran rivalry.

Read more: Islamic Military Alliance: Give it a chance it might actually become…

Let us remind ourselves,  for any Pakistani, his/her loyalty must be to the country,  fellow men & national interests first. For example, nearly $10 billion coming from GCC countries in form of remittances annually, supporting millions of families, is vital for Pakistan’s economy. Security and strategic converges are good enough reasons that bind Islamabad to be at the center stage of KSA led security platform balancing and influencing the Alliance.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a party leader in the ruling PML-N party, and advisor to Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, leader ruling PML-N party, and advisor to Balochistan Government on media and strategic communication. He remained associated BBC World Service in London covering South and West Asia.

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