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Editorial

May 24, 2017

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PM at the summit

PM at the summit

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s low-key visit to Saudi Arabia for the US-Arab-Islamic Summit has drawn a torrent of criticism from the opposition at home. The PTI has, as always, been at the forefront of the backlash. According to the critics, Nawaz was treated like the 12th man in Riyadh who was not even given the opportunity to make a speech. At the same time, there has been criticism over why the prime minister didn’t ‘defend’ Iran during the summit. What is lost amidst such discourse is the fact that Pakistan has chosen to remain neutral in the Middle Eastern conflict. This policy was not merely the choice of the sitting government – but what parliament voted for and what the media had campaigned for as well. The summit in Saudi Arabia was quickly revealed to be part of a strategy to create an alliance against Iran. So, even though Pakistan is officially part of the Saudi-led military alliance against terrorism, it is hardly surprising – given our efforts at staying neutral – that Nawaz was not at the forefront of the summit.

It is doubly ironic that opposition figures were the ones to bemoan the perceived slight to Pakistan in Riyadh when they had enthusiastically participated in the parliamentary vote that had rejected sending Pakistani troops to fight the US-Saudi war in Yemen. If the opposition’s advice on speaking up during the summit were to be taken, PM Nawaz Sharif would have ended up damaging Pakistan’s relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia – and would have received flak at home as well. It is time for political expediency to be sacrificed for genuine national interest. As far as the exchange between Trump and Nawaz is concerned, token acceptance of Pakistan’s sacrifices from an erratic US president would barely do anything to improve the security situation at home – which is Pakistan’s to fight. If there is a valid criticism of the government to be made it is that lack of coordination and information regarding PM Nawaz’s role during the summit once again serves as a reminder that there being no permanent foreign minister of the country takes a toll on the functioning of the Foreign Office. But to suggest that we were humiliated in Riyadh is a bridge too far.

 

 

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