Saudi Arabia, Yemen and us

News about Pakistan sending troops to defend Saudi Arabia have started surfacing in the media and there is talk once again of General Raheel taking charge of the so-called Saudi counter-terrorism coalition. There has been no official confirmation and these just might be fake news like so many other rumours being floated these days as weapons of psychological warfare. Whether they are true or false, in either case, they are strands of a sinister web being woven around us.

Clearly, there is a concerted effort to push us back into the murderous lap of the US-led empire. The carrot-and-stick routine and the do-more mantra doesn’t work anymore, so we are being patted on the back for doing a good job of countering terrorism and flattered with crafty compliments that overstate our capacity. By crowning us as the leader and defender of a fictional Muslim ummah, we are being lured into the quicksand of imperial conflicts as pawns.

Consider this news report that is as real as they get. In a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of the Riyadh-based Yemeni government who was in Islamabad this week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a million dollars in humanitarian assistance for the ‘distressed people’ of the country. Does he really think that this token would help the besieged people of Yemen? Or is it meant to signal our support for the Saudi-led war of aggression against them? Is it meant to pave the way for fighting the Saudi war, something our prime minister has been itching to do from the day it started?

Distressed is certainly not the right word to describe the condition of people in Yemen. They are actually being bombed back to the stone-age as we speak; the war against them choreographed from the CIA-controlled coordination centre in Riyadh. The US and UK are arming the Saudi-led coalition whose bombing campaign has killed more than 10,000 people and injured 43,000 according to a UN report. Other monitoring groups say the figure of casualties is higher.

Thousands of children have been killed in bombing raids and tens of thousands are starving due to the Saudi-imposed blockade of the poor country. The day our Prime Minister announced ‘humanitarian assistance’ for the Riyadh-based Yemeni government, President Trump welcomed the Saudi Defence Minister to the White House. The Trump administration has approved the arms sale to Saudi Arabia that was put on hold by his predecessor due to concerns about civilian casualties, signalling the escalation of the US-Saudi war against Yemen.

In one week, the Trump administration is reported to have bombed Yemen more than what his predecessor managed in a year. The US-Saudi coalition justifies its war against Yemen in the name of fighting ‘Iranian-backed’ Houthi ‘rebels’. They say they are countering terrorism despite the fact that their bombing campaign is strengthening Al-Qaeda and other Saudi-sponsored terrorist groups in the country. Clearly, they are playing the same game they are playing in Syria.

Even if we were to go along with the imperial narrative that blames Iran for supporting the Houthi ‘rebels’, how does it help our national interest to become party to the conflict? When the US-directed Saudi coalition launched the war against Yemen and the GCC kings used every pressure tactic in the book to make Pakistan commit troops to their patently anti-Iran sectarian coalition, the military leadership wisely decided to stay away from it, convincing the government to offer our services as a mediator instead. That’s the best course for us even today.

The Saudi royals and their imperial masters haven’t given up though. They’d like to drag us into the Yemen conflict and divert our attention from the war at home. That’s not all. They’d like to use various ploys to drown us in their fraudulent narrative and undo our integration in the multipolar framework. Their distractions are designed to make us lose our direction and wander back into their murderous arms. It should come as no surprise that our Prime Minister is playing their game like a helpless puppet.

He just sent his advisor on Foreign Affairs all the way to London to meet Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor. The British National Security Advisor is hosting the meeting that is supposed to resolve the tension between us. Picture this: The pet poodle of Uncle Sam, the cunning master of the divide-and rule game, bringing us closer. In view of the positive and growing role of China and Russia in stabilising Afghanistan, we should have pushed for a meeting in Moscow or Beijing. Why go running to London to meet the dying meddlesome queen and give her undue importance?

Even as the geopolitical upheaval around the globe opens up opportunities to free ourselves from imperial chains, our leaders would rather run back to their abusive master like a faithful old dog who can’t learn new tricks. They’d rather do more for the emperor and follow the imperial script; a script that would have our soldiers fight imperial wars abroad even as our home is under attack by the emperor, a script that would like to reduce the role of one of the finest fighting forces in the world to providing security to sports events when it is not fighting imperial wars.

Given the all-out war against us, our armed forces must focus on their primary duty to defend Pakistan. Lest we forget: the war is not over yet. In fact, it is heating up. As the threat of old proxy-terrorists gets downgraded, new ones are being manufactured. Hybrid weapons are being activated at an amazing pace; sowing chaos and confusion, creating distractions and dependence, and fragmenting the society along ethnic and sectarian lines.

These non-military threats should be countered by the political leadership but it is only exacerbating them with its ineptitude and complicity. Our supreme civilians, who need the army to conduct the national census and police our cities, is neither prepared nor interested to face these challenges. Didn’t our prime minister just ask the custodians of a madrassah teaching a medieval sectarian syllabus to come up with a narrative against extremism?

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt