Millennium Post

Going in reverse

Pakistan’s current scenario is that of turmoil and repeated setbacks, both foreign and domestic, that are unlikely to come to an end in the near future

As already articulated earlier in these columns, currently Pakistan is going through real tough times with no imminent signs of any silver lining. While the country is doing its utmost to meet the deadline of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) coming up this September, nothing concrete has been done so far with this extra breathing space. Acting in haste, the security establishment listed out the names of the terrorists living in Pakistan.

Dawood Ibrahim, the most wanted terrorist in India was mentioned in the initial list but on being further probed, it quickly retracted Dawood's name but the undeniable fact remains that Pakistan is still sheltering the criminal from India wanted for masterminding the Mumbai communal riots of 1993.

Meanwhile, acting under severe pressure, Pakistan hastened to ensure that three terrorists, Malik Zafar Iqbal, Abdul Salam and Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki were sentenced for their complicity in the Mumbai terror assaults of November 2008. Experts, however, feel that this action is simply cosmetic action to meet the FATF requirements.

In another Pakistan related news, it's deteriorating relations with erstwhile ally Saudi Arabia is hitting headlines in the Arab world media space. Those Islamic countries who have previously been objective in weighing the relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are openly blaming Pakistan for its inept diplomacy and immature approach in dealing with Saudi Arabia.

Al Jazeera, the well-known media house known to espouse the cause of Islamic unity and the Arab world has gone on a spree of a series of write-ups on this development. The latest piece appropriately entitled "Pakistan's balancing act may be failing" is an interesting read. It squarely puts the blame on Pakistan for worsening the ties with Saudi Arabia. It further says the Gulf States had balanced their dealings with Pakistan in the past but now, they are openly moving closer towards India and moving away from Pakistan. This is a hugely significant remark and perhaps shows that India played its cards well in befriending the Saudis. More importantly, the media observers opine that there is a strong possibility of more ups and downs between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and the trend emerging signals a growing closeness between Riyadh and New Delhi. Saudi Arabia is clearly ignoring Pakistan's demand seeking support for Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Cyril Almedia, a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and a Pakistani journalist has been very categorical in saying that no one has ever seen anything like it before.

It's a major setback also because there are 2.5 million Pakistani expatriates in Saudi Arabia and annual remittances roughly amount to USD 821 million which is 30 per cent of the entire remittances. Also, USD 6.2 billion Ioan from Saudi Arabia took a toll of Pakistani economy which is already in shambles.

Turkey, under Erdogan, is strongly believed to be also responsible for causing fissures in Pakistan-Saudi relations. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are bitter adversaries and the former hates Pakistan acting as a sycophant of the latter. Such optics are irksome to Saudi Arabia which doesn't want Turkey to undermine the strength and importance of the OIC which is a Saudi baby and is a very possessive commodity for Riyadh. Angst for Turkey is also compounded by the fact that it is making efforts to assume supremacy in global Islamic affairs by cleverly playing the Islamic card.

To drum up his popularity hiding under the cloak of religion, Erdogan has recently converted a former church or Kariye museum in Chora which was earlier a Church of the Saviour, a medieval Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church in the Faith district, Istanbul. Earlier, another Christian monument, Hagia Sophia, through a court order, was converted as a mosque and devotees have started praying in good numbers congregating especially on Fridays.

Emboldened by such brazen moves, in Zyari district in Pakistan, a pre-partition Hanuman temple was razed to the ground which is seen as a clear desecration, if not a sacrilege, of a place of worship. The place housing the shrine has also been demolished beyond recognition and a builder who has bought the land, of immense veneration to the Hindus, plans to build a residential complex on the razed site. Prime Minister Imran Khan's hollowed claims of Pakistan being a tolerant and secular country have fallen flat.

Internally, Imran Khan doesn't seem very comfortable. He has recently regretted his Government's decision of allowing ex-Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif to travel to the UK for specialised treatment. He even went to the extent of admitting that he was very embarrassed by Nawaz's stay in England and refusal to come back to Pakistan despite a written undertaking to the Lahore High Court given in November 2019 that he would return in four months. This bares Imran Khan's political naivety and he looks more frustrated when he sees Nawaz Sharif's pictures sitting in a London cafe enjoying coffee and snacks with signs of good health.

Imran Khan's most recent remarks against India for its growing proximity to the US was appropriately lambasted by Indian EAM, S Jai Shankar. Imran, once in a while, makes feeble attempts with disparaging remarks, to target the US and India to dent the ties. He is unlikely to succeed

due to his poor rhetoric and below-par political and diplomatic skills.

As these developments within and outside Pakistan are unfolding, there is a sense of uneasiness in the rank and file of the armed forces. This sense is further manifested after the 'mission aborted' trip of Army Chief Gen Bajwa to Saudi Arabia on August 17 to mend fences. He returned to Islamabad, red-faced and duly snubbed. That apart, retired Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif who is presently Commander of the Saudi led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) based in Saudi Arabia is pushing his candidature seeking Riyadh's backing to play a crucial role in Pakistan. This is obviously unnerving for the present incumbent of Pakistan Army. Raheel too has following in the cantonments and also amongst the khaki. Such a development can not possibly be ignored.

The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal

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