VIEW: Blame it on the KSA —Syed Kamran Hashmi
For centuries, Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan have lived in religious harmony. But the influence of Saudi financing has transformed this spirit and has converted it into a Frankenstein of fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism
Ever since Abdul Aziz Al Saud seized control of the Hijaz after defeating Hussein Ibn Ali, Saudi Arabia has kept close ties with Europe and the US. The conquest of Hijaz in 1925 was patronised by the UK and it consolidated power for the Saud family in most of the Arabian Peninsula. In 1932, Abdul Aziz Al Saud proclaimed himself the King of Saudi Arabia and included the territories of both the Hijaz and Najd in his kingdom.
In 1933, the kingdom signed a treaty with the California-Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC) of the US, which was later converted to the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO). The combined project of the two nations witnessed its first success in 1938 in Dammam on its seventh attempt. Since then the fossil fuel industry (ARAMCO) has unified and integrated the economic, geo-political and financial interests of both the countries. For many decades, their relationship has grown stronger and has only faced very few short-lived crises like the one in the Arab-Israel war of 1973.
Since the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) controls the most sacred land for Muslims the world over, its king, titled the ‘Al Kadhimain Al Sharifain’, enjoys a unique and revered position all over the world. As the guardian of the faith, the royal family also implements strict shariah law in the country to project and promote its religious image.
The kingdom therefore is adored and venerated broadly in Pakistan and we look up to our Arab brothers for support and stability in our country. But, unfortunately, the role of the KSA has been very divisive and has promoted sectarianism and religious intolerance in Pakistan. It has financed a particular brand of orthodox Sunni Islam and, according to some reports, it has even funded some of the infamous madrassas that allegedly train terrorists in our country.
For centuries, Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan have lived in religious harmony. They have respected their differences and have promoted religious tolerance in society. But the influence of Saudi financing has transformed this spirit and has converted it into a Frankenstein of fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism. In the last three decades, Pakistanis have witnessed an increasing number of intolerant religious decrees (fatwas) to denounce each other’s faith as blasphemy, paganism or apostasy.
In the international arena, the royal family of the KSA has relentlessly extended support to the tyrants, dictators and usurpers of the Muslim world. The list is long and includes a few like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, General Musharraf of Pakistan and Idi Amin of Uganda.
Similar endorsements were extended to the kingdom of Bahrain where the uprising was brutally crushed with the physical invasion of Saudi troops in Bahrain to protect the throne of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. This action even triggered the targeted killing of Sunni Pakistanis living in Shia-dominant Bahrain.
The US-led Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003, which are widely condemned in the Muslim world and have resulted in the loss of millions of innocent lives, were completely endorsed, approved and funded by the KSA. The mission of the US in the second Iraq war could not have been accomplished without its support.
Pakistanis have always criticised and disapproved of the close ties of the US with Israel. They have always managed to paint a religious picture of their friendship with the KSA but have overlooked the even closer ties of the US with the KSA and have ignored the deep-rooted mutual economic interests of the two countries. On the one hand, Israel is not even acknowledged as an independent country by Pakistan but the KSA is held dearest. On the other, the US is blamed for the escalation of terrorism in our country but the KSA is completely exonerated of financing the religious extremism in it.
We criticise the actions of May 2, 2011 by the US as a breach of our sovereignty but do not recall the Saudi prince when he publicly flashed the agreement between Mian Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf. He was fiercely opposing the arrival of Mr Sharif in Pakistan (against the constitution of Pakistan); remember how Mian Nawaz Sharif was exiled from his own country and incarcerated in a Saudi palace for the next few years.
Being Pakistanis we do not approve the breach of our sovereignty by any country nor do we want to fight a foreign funded war with ulterior and suspicious motives in our lands. We want to have a respectful and peaceful relationship with all countries and do not want to be exploited because of our religion and our faith.
The writer is a freelance columnist residing in the US. He can be reached at email@example.com