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January 9, 2016

Pakistan’s role should be that of a peacemaker: ex-envoy


January 9, 2016


Pakistan’s role in the Iran–Saudi Arabia imbroglio should just be that of a peacemaker and not an actively aligned party as the latter could boomerang on her interests.

This exhortation was made by former Pakistani ambassador Karamatullah Ghauri while addressing members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), the media, and the intellectual elite of the town on Friday evening at the institute.

Talking about the Middle East situation in general, he said it was a particularly complicated affair and termed it an “enigma wrapped in a riddle”. 

“We have no problem with Iran. Besides, we share a long border and are culturally more akin to Iran than to Saudi Arabia. As for Saudi Arabia, it is a matter of economic expediency. There are 1.5 million Pakistani expatriates working in Saudi Arabia who remit hundreds of thousands back home, thus buttressing the foreign exchange reserves of the country. As such, it would be utter folly if we were to get involved in a military campaign,” said Ghauri.

The former envoy stated that the main bone of contention in the Iran-Saudi conflict

was the Saudi fear of Iran becoming a nuclear power. He also highlighted the fact that, today, Saudi Arabia was one of the top clients for US weapons.

Speaking about the Iraq War, Ghauri maintained that the plan to attack Iraq was based on a purely trumped up issue (the weapons of mass destruction) and was a design of the US Neocons who were looking to use Iraq and its oil wealth as a launching pad for total world domination. 

He said that Iraq was anathema to the US because of her progressive policies. During Saddam’s tenure, he said, 6oo Iraqis were sent every year to Western universities for technical training and higher studies and, as such, the US Neocons wanted to see Saddam out. 

Talking about the Arab Spring, Ghauri held that it didn’t result from just a lack of democracy, but also because of the absence of fundamental rights.  

He said that in a meeting with a Saudi envoy, Muhammad Al Faqih, the latter had said that nothing like the Arab Spring could ever occur as the Arab governments provided their citizens with all the basic necessities of life. 

Ghauri claimed to have countered the argument by quoting as an example the thousands of Arabs who went overseas and found the freedoms and fundamental rights taken for granted in western countries glaringly absent at home. Such realisations, he said, would certainly raise questions in their minds which could find an outlet in the form of discontent with their governments.

“That is precisely what happened,” according to Ghauri, “It was the denial of fundamental rights that precipitated the Arab Spring.”

Comparatively speaking, he said that people in Pakistan had all the freedoms, hence, there were no chances of an Arab Spring here.

The former ambassador also highlighted certain external dynamics shaping things in the Arab world; firstly, the fact that the Arab world was home to three-fourths of the world’s oil resources and, secondly, the presence of Israel.

Ghauri pointed out that Arthur Balfour, then serving as United Kingdom’s foreign secretary, could sense the role oil would play in the future of world politics, hence, he wrote the letter to Walter Rothschild that came to be known as the “Balfour Declaration”.

“That created commercial interests in the Arab world which was, to a great extent, a factor that constantly contributed to destabilising the region,” said Ghauri.

The lecture evinced such a lot of interest among those present that there was a prolonged question-answer session after the talk.

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