Pakistan is in a difficult position to get involved in another conflict of the Middle East. The recent rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar urges Pakistan to take sides with one of the parties. But a question is Pakistan ready to take sides under the changing dynamics of the Middle East in the backdrop of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia?

The policy makers needs to assess the pulse of the conflict between two major states with whom Pakistan have good terms. It is important to keep our house in order before taking part in the Middle Eastern conflict.

The Prime Minister and Army Chief Qamar Bajwa visited Saudi Arabia to play a mediator role with two major GCC countries. Pakistan withdraws from the Saudi-led Military Alliance. The purpose of the visit was to convey the apprehensions of the Pakistan over the future of Military Alliance of thirty-four countries. The objective of Combined Military Alliance is to curtail the ISIS rather than countering Iranian influence in the region. Pakistan has cordial relations with Iran and has diplomatic ties. They cooperate with each other on various issues at different forums.

The Turkish state-led media reported that parliament of Pakistan is considering sending troops to Qatar. The role of media is crucial as it can become the weapon in conflict. The false propaganda and stories can create diplomatic issues in this crisis. One can say that foreign office of Pakistan has denied claims sending any troops to Qatar. It was made clear by the Spokesperson of the foreign office that Pakistan have no plans to send troops to Qatar. Pakistan holds significant position diplomatically because of their close ties with both countries involved in the latest crisis in the Middle East. 

The aim of policy makers is to protect the national interest of Pakistan which is a top priority for any country. Pakistan needs to make it clear that diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar are vital. But it would not be achieved at the cost of national interest. The policy of neutrality by Pakistan is a viable option. Pakistan had to withdraw from the International Military Coalition by calling Raheel Shareef back to lead a Saudi-led coalition. The aim of the Military Coalition is to counter the threat emanating from the increasing role of ISIS in the Middle East.

On the contrary, the Saudi aspirations are to block Iran from taking a leading role in politics of Middle East. Saudi Arabia has broken the diplomatic ties with Qatar for backing Iran. The future of International Military Coalition (IMC) to become the major coalition of Muslim countries for countering the growing influence of ISIS is not the focus anymore. It can further disrupt the stability of the region by shifting the attention away from countering ISIS to power rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  It would hamper the efforts to curtail terrorism and extremism in Middle Eastern region.

Pakistan is under the pressure due to the rift between the Saudi Arabia and Qatar and close ties with both the countries. The implications of recent Middle Eastern crisis are immense for Islamabad in the context of security and energy sector. Pakistan heavily dependent on funding from Saudi Arabia and they cannot afford to take the side of Doha. Pakistan security forces are occupied with domestic security concerns and not in a position to involve them in the Middle East. According to former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Senator Sherry Rehman Pakistan should follow the policy of neutrality because the international conflict is multifaceted and complex. She said “Fault-lines in the Muslim world will only hurt Pakistan one way or the other, as we have stakes in all blocs and countries.’’

To conclude, one can say Pakistan needs to analyze all aspects of the crisis without getting influenced by Saudi-Qatar rivalry. It is important to give preference to the national interest of the country in wake of recent developments in the Middle East particularly after Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. According to the experts, the timing of the conflict is important why the rift between two countries reached its climax after a visit of newly elected President of US? One can say the aggressive posture of Saudi Arabia is the result of US stance over Iran as they have blamed them for promoting extremism in the Middle East.

Mehwish Akram

Mehwish Akram holds masters degree in International Relations and currently doing M Phil in Political Science. Her areas of interest are Democracy, Political theory and Environmental politics .

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