October Issue 2009

By | News & Politics | Published 15 years ago

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is one that is based on mutual interests; what is not clear is if the interests served are those of the countries’ rulers or their citizens. When Pervez Musharraf wanted to escape prosecution, he went to the Saudis. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif used the Saudis as a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. Apart from bailing out our disgraced political leaders, the Saudis have also, time and again, bailed out our economy with petro dollars.

But there are signs that Saudi relations with Pakistan are entering a new era. Previously the princes were satisfied with using our lands for hunting; now, as Najma Sadeque documents, they want to use it to ameliorate their food concerns. With Pakistan in the midst of a growing food crisis, one that has the United Nations Food and Agricultural Agency worried, Pakistan is selling acres of land that will be used by Saudi Arabia — and the rest of the Arab world — to grow and export food to their barren desert.

The relationship between the two countries has a long, complicated history. Mushahid Hussain explains how Saudi-Pak relations have developed over the years, with the two countries becoming increasingly intertwined as Saudi aid poured into Pakistan and the Pakistani military came to the rescue when rebels took over the Kaaba in 1979. The shared Islamic ideology of the two countries played its part in bringing the two countries closer, especially when Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, egged on by the US, funded and organised the jihadi resistance in Afghanistan.

This Islamic ideology, believes Mohammed Hanif, is an outward sign of piety that masks the hypocrisies of a country that bans women from driving yet ogles mannequins’ undergarments. There is a psychological element to Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia: its rulers seek the reflected glory that comes from associating with the gatekeepers of Islam’s holy lands.

The bond that ties Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is strong — too strong, some believe. In light of increasing Saudi influence in the country, Newsline examines just how beneficial this relationship really is to Pakistan.

To begin, select any one of the stories in this Newsline report on “The Saudi Factor.”

Cover Story 1: Giving Away the Family Silver by Najma Sadeque

Sidebar: Taking an Informed Decision by Aoun Abbas Sahi

Sidebar: A Fruitful Investment by Hussain Shaiq

Supplementary Story: The Global Land Grab by Najma Sadeque

Cover Story 2: Family Ties by Mushahid Hussain

Cover Story 3: The Sheikhs of Araby by Mohammed Hanif