Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have put the entire of Middle East as well as Pakistan in a conundrum. Tensions have flared to an all time high following the execution of prominent Shia Saudi cleric Nimr al-Nimr accused of terrorism on Saturday and hours later an Iranian mob set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. In response Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations and called its diplomats back home, giving Iranian diplomats two days to leave. The timing of this conflict could not be more crucial for the region, when just a month ago there was agreement over holding talks to end the Yemen crisis and Syria was supposed to follow suit. The situation is also going to become a major headache for Pakistan, where we will be pressured to pick a side and join the fray.

The unpredictability of the actions of the Saudi regime is as eminent as its penchant for provoking aggression. A diplomatic estrangement between the major Sunni and Shia powers in the region will reverberate across the Middle East as well as in Pakistan, where wars are started and innocent people are killed in the name of religion. Executing a renowned Shia figurehead alongside the likes of Taliban militants has insulted and deeply moved the Shia community across the world, not just Tehran. The Saudi regime should have found more reasonable ways of quashing dissent within the Kingdom, instead of resorting to mass executions.

Carrying out the death sentence on Nimr sends a strong message to Saudi Arabia’s aggrieved Shia minority that Iran has no say in internal Saudi decisions. Any regional tension could also adversely affect Iran’s move back into international oil markets following the lifting of sanctions. We might as well bid farewell to the distant dream of the TAPI Pipeline as well as the oil we had hoped to buy from Iran. Since this war is about religion, as it almost always is, it would be unspeakable to pick the wrong side. We are already part of the Saudi coalition against terrorism and we cannot remove ourself from it without irreparable damage to our relations with the Kingdom.

Countries that are ruled by emotion and lack objectivity are not able to prosper; Pakistan is a prime example of that. As long as society is tangled within the sticky web of religiosity, it fails to protect the rights of the marginalised and sucks the whole region and beyond into the quagmire of its own insecurities.