As is often the case during regional conflicts, outside players with strong ties to the region, may feel compelled to toe the line to one of the parties. Thus, in the latest conflict between Qatar and Saudi/UAE/Egypt ( “Saudi bloc”), Pakistan found itself walking a diplomatic and economic tightrope. That is, until the last few days, when PM Nawaz Sharif told King Salman of Saudi Arabia that Pakistan will not be taking sides in the conflict.
As an important side-note, the country’s interest must not be held ransom to Nawaz Sharif’s own personal debt to Saudi Arabia, who hosted him for eight years during his exile during the Musharraf era. And it appears so far Mr. Sharif is resisting the pressure.
As this commentary will illustrate, I believe that this is the commendable choice, as it is in Pakistan’s interest to remain neutral, if not lean, towards Qatar based on some key factors that I detail below.
Will Pakistan pay a price for this neutrality? The first response is why should Pakistan, as a sovereign nation, suffer any consequences for its foreign policy choices? In fact, outside Arab countries, no major nation has supported the Saudi bloc so why pressure Pakistan. However, in the current toxic environment, the Saudi bloc may, unfortunately, try to blackmail Pakistan using some of its economic leverage but as I argue, Pakistan is well placed to stand up to any pressure as discussed next:
The authors argue that it is in Pakistan’s interest to remain at least neutral, if not lean to Qatar. We base our argument on three macro factors: economics, geopolitical, and principles.
There is no doubt that Saudi bloc holds strong leverage in terms of pure economics with nearly $8bn of remittances to Pakistan through a pipeline of 3+ mn million expatriate Pakistani workers versus only about $0.3bn via just over 100,000 workers in Qatar.
Furthermore, trade flow between the two parties is lopsided with Saudi block being an order higher than Qatar in terms of both exports and imports.
However, there are some key points to be made here:
Firstly, while overseas workers send remittances back home, they are also providing an important service to the host country- a sort of symbiotic relationship. It is not like host nations can wake up one day and ship workers home because replacement can be both expensive and time-consuming. For example, India also has a huge contingent of workers in these countries—does this mean that India must also side with one party to maintain its workforce there?
Secondly, the majority of trade flow is imported to Pakistan from these countries is in the form of oil and gas sales. While there may be some “special discounts” for some portion of these sales, Pakistan is likely paying close to market prices and can easily replace these sales from other entities in a global market that provide plenty of outlets for replacement energy products.
While old economic factors are important, the new kid on the block is liquefied natural gas (LNG). Qatar is now a large supplier of LNG. As the Pakistan population is painfully aware, the largest bane to Pakistani economy has been electric power. And power requires fuel. There is no more efficient and cleaner fuel than natural gas, which has been depleting from Sui fields in Baluchistan. LNG provides the fastest and most efficient fix to boost natural gas supplies. Fixing the power situation can boost Estimates for effect on GDP due to power shortfalls range from 2-4%, losses that dwarf any trade/loans from Saudi bloc.
Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG in the world. In terms of proximity, it is the closest major supplier, thus with the lowest shipping costs. Thus, in terms of delivered sales, there is no more efficient and reliable supplier than Qatar.
We do acknowledge that Qatar has been resistant to Pakistani expatriates with much difficulty in obtaining worker permits for Pakistani citizens as compared to other nations (such as India, Nepal, Philippines, etc.). However, by enhancing LNG imports, Pakistan will also hold leverage with Qatar and can petition this tiny state to allow equal access to Pakistani workers relative to other nations.
As a Muslim nation, Pakistan is in a more difficult position relative to say India in terms of the unique pressure that this situation exerts. Saudi has long exerted soft power in Pakistan. Much of this power was related to leveraging Pakistan’s internal political mess, including the many military coups of the year. However, with current political stability, it is time for Pakistan to shake off this influence.
Recently, Pakistan’s former army chief was appointed to lead a 39-member military alliance put together by Saudi Arabia as sort of a “Muslim NATO”. This in itself has been fraught with risks. Pakistan has a large Shia population, and it became increasingly clear that this force was designed as an anti-Iran coalition. With a lack of clear objectives, this effort may soon see its death knell.
Also, Pakistan has borders both with Afghanistan and Iran, in addition to India. It is in Pakistan’s interest to maintain and foster good relations with these Muslim countries besides the Arab bloc. But it is in both Qatar and Pakistan’s interest to take sides only when its own interests are aligned with the other parties. For example, in Syria, both must join majority other states against a clear bad actor (Assad), and not for sectarian reasons (i.e. Sunni states against Syria/Iran).
Furthermore, in the recent summit held in Riyadh where Donald Trump, a President who has a known record of hateful statements against Muslims, was ironically invited to join Muslim leaders in a coalition to stamp out terrorism. While one would imagine that Pakistan would be in the forefronts of such coalitions, having suffered tremendous costs in its campaign to obliterate radicals, instead Pakistan was hardly present and relegated to the back-benches. The Prime-minister was not even offered time for his speech. Instead, it became an Arab-USA back-patting affair, showing once more that Pakistan is not even respected, even while its military is most sought by all the Arab nations. It became a case of surrendering to the Arab master and the Arab to the White master.
Also, Pakistan should take cues from another Muslim nation with strong military power, Turkey. Nuclear Pakistan should be toe to toe with Turkey in terms of exerting global power, yet Pakistan lags considerably behind. Also, in the recent anti-terrorism Riyadh Summit, the Saudi bloc gave no respect to both Pakistan and Turkey. While Pakistan should have been at the forefronts of such events, it was relegated to the back-benches. Thus, like Turkey, it is time for Pakistan to exert its own independence (including its approach to Qatar).
It is important for Pakistan not to forget history—of being let down by friends after being “used”. The lessons of the Afghan war and the United States’ fair-weather friendship is still sour in the minds and hearts of Pakistan.
Qatar too faces a betrayal of sorts from nations that until a week before the crisis were considered “brotherly” nations. Not only does Qatar share a religious ideology with Saudi Arabia in particular, ties between the nations and people are deep and extensive. Many Qataris have tribal and ancestral roots in Saudi Arabia, and have direct family members, land-holdings and other interests in Saudi. Yet within a week, Qatar became the face of the enemy!
Furthermore, the Saudi bloc is accusing Qatar of funding terrorism, charges that sound very familiar in Pakistan. Even while Pakistan has been one of the biggest victims of terrorism, perceptions to the contrary have flourished, due to clever propaganda. Similarly, Qatar faced a barrage of negative op-eds in USA papers over the last few months, to soil its reputation.
Like Pakistan, terrorism charges against Qatar are also quite obscure, and in Qatar’s case mostly dealing with Syria and Egypt. Qatar has recently hired a USA firm headed by the US Attorney General during Sept. 11 attacks, John Ashcroft in order to review measures in place to prevent and detect efforts to launder funds and/or to use its financial systems to finance terrorist organizations. In terms of support of Syrian opposition, all parties in this conflict are united against Assad. Different parties have chosen to support different entities at different times based on who they feel is particularly effective. Could some of this money end up in the wrong hands? Absolutely. In fact, any funds from any nation, including the Saudi bloc, the United States, or any of the multitude of players could end up in the wrong hands.
Another complaint against Qatar is with regards to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). One must note that the MB was Egypt’s democratically elected ruling party only a few years ago. The organization has long distances itself from violence. Soft links to this movement exist globally, from Turkey, to Tunisia, and even to Pakistan (as in Jamaat-e- Islami). It is fair to accept that offshoots of MB may have veered away from MB’s core principles or even adopted violence. And that some countries may see these offshoots as existential threats. But to paint the entire movement as one monolith or the “mother of terrorism” is not only simplistic but flat wrong. So when the Saudi bloc claims that ISIS gets its motivation from MB and paints the entire MB movement as one monolith or the “mother of terrorism”, it is not only simplistic but wrong. Let’s take this logic to its natural conclusion: if ISIS takes its motivation from MB, and MB takes its motivation from Islam, is Islam the “mother of terrorism”?
Also, the Saudi bloc dislikes Qatar for allowing offices of Taliban and Hamas. The presence of official representatives in Qatar permits counterparties to meet at a neutral location, which is to facilitate peaceful and political resolutions. You cannot shut down voices, you can just force them to move somewhere else, which may make it even harder to come to reasonable terms with them. Even the USA has engaged in discussions with Taliban in Qatar. And Qatar has hosted Palestinian unity efforts. So, is this a case of facilitating peace or fomenting terrorism?
Hate of Al-Jazeera media channel units Saudi bloc against Qatar. While Al-Jazeera became a champion of Egyptian people during the revolution to overthrow Hosni Mubarak. However, Sisi rode a brutal campaign which saw the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians, what many see as a counter-revolution. The Egyptian media stood arm in arm with Sisi in this transition and became a central theme in the propaganda to dehumanize Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party, which paved the way for a military strongman to enter the presidency. Al-Jazeera, especially the Arabic channel, was considered biased towards the Brotherhood and would no toe the official media line of the new Egypt, and thus became the target of a hostile campaign of defamation and even saw its journalists imprisoned. It is important to note that UAE particularly provided generous and overt support to the coup and Saudi under King Abdulla was not far behind. This chasm was one of the early significant fractures between Saudi bloc and Qatar.
Here in Pakistan, we are blessed to have a relatively free press. No politician or strongman is safe from the eye of the media. And can appreciate Al-Jazeera’s much more independent coverage than any other Arab media outlet. Regardless of Al-Jazeera’s coverage, no nation should be able to exert pressure on another to shut off a media channel. Silencing media voices hurts everyone.
Finally, while the Saudi bloc sees Iran as the biggest threat to world peace and the largest sponsor of terrorism, it continues to maintain diplomatic and economic ties with Iran. So on one hand, Qatar is being punished for not toeing the Saudi bloc line to Iran, but the on the other, the Saudi bloc continues to do business as usual with Iran. This makes little sense and reeks of double standards. Furthermore, the way to contain Iran would not be into strong-arming it into compliance. Iran must stop its disastrous direct interference in assisting Syrian’s Assad in his brutal campaign. But it cannot be stopped with empty threats and punishing a small nation for keeping its options open.
In conclusion, the authors believe that there is a clearly an aggrieved party in this conflict and it is not the Saudi bloc. However, it would very difficult to ignore the brotherly and significant relations that Pakistan has with the Saudi bloc. Thus, while support to Qatar appears to be the most principled approach, it should be done carefully and without damaging relations with the Saudi bloc. Taking Turkey’s lead and even to some extent Kuwait, Pakistan can take on more of a negotiator/mediator role to bring the parties back from the brink of total collapse.
A version of this article was also published here.
Malaysians Ask China To Free Uyghurs, Close The Camps
By Gulnaz Uighur
Muslims are standing up for Uyghurs, protests held in Malaysia.
5th of July could be just like another day for people but for Uyghurs, it brings back dark memories of a bloody past. This day, in 2009, thousands of Uyghur students were massacred by Chinese police in Urumqi. These young students were demanding an investigation into the rising number of homicides in a toy factory. These people only wanted justice. They were also upset by the ongoing discrimination in the employment sector. Graduates were denied jobs because of their Uyghur ethnicity. After the protests, China started abducting the Uyghur youth and no one knows where the missing went. Its been 10 years since that horrifying incident and the condition of Muslims have devolved in a genocidal nightmare.
Communist Government in China Has over 2 Million Uyghurs in Concentration Camps
Beijing has now locked over 2 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. People in these places are forced to denounce Islam, forget the teachings of Quran, prohibited from praying, asked to learn Xi Jinping’s speech and tortured for not obeying these orders. Sadly, Islam is being treated as a disease in China and most of the Islamic nations are turning a blind eye to it.
So Malaysia came as a breath of fresh air when Muslim NGOs organized an anti-China protest against Uyghur persecution.
On 5th July 2019, a coalition of 34 Malaysian NGOs gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to protest the persecution of Uyghurs. The organizations prepared a memo of protest to be submitted to Chinese officials. In the memo, they demanded Beijing to ‘Respect the human rights of the Uyghur people, in particular, their right to life and freedom of religion and belief.’ , ‘immediately stop the persecution and extreme repression of the Uyghur people.’ and close the camps. They also called upon the International community to increase the voices of protest and disfavour upon the Chinese government and to work together to improve the situation for the Uyghur people through concrete actions.
The protesters shouted slogans like ‘Me Too Uyghur’ and ‘Save Uyghur’. In a media interview, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim asked immediate freedom for all those who have been detained in concentration camps.
Malaysians Stand With Uyghurs
Abim secretary Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz accused the Chinese government of concealing the plight of the Uyghurs by offering NGOs and government agencies free trips and painting a rosy picture of the camps. Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council Of Islamic Organizations (Mapim), said the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs could not be denied or disguised. The Group of NGOs also included Ikram Association and the Malaysian Youth Council among others.
Though no Chinese official came out to accept the memo, the message was clear that now people won’t keep quiet about the Uyghur persecution. There is a dire need for Muslim countries to break their silence on this issue. There is enough evidence to prove that something unholy and inhumane is happening with Uyghurs. If these countries consider China their friend then ask it to stop being a Shaitan. The leaders must realize that their first duty is towards the Ummah and not towards China.
Now is the time to stand for Uyghurs before nothing is left to be saved.
This protest in Malaysia has proved that people in Muslim countries do support Uyghurs even if their governments are silent and are upset with Beijing’s policies. This event proved that governments may fail to fight but people won’t.
The Environmental Cost Of War With Iran
Report after report shows how planet Earth may reach a point of no return. An analysis written by Ian Dunlop claims the planet cannot be saved by the mid-century if we continue on this path. And yet here we are marching towards a war with Iran.
When we think of climate change, we rarely think of war. On June 12th, 2019, Brown University released a report declaring the Department of Defence to be “the world’s largest institution to use petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.” Burning jet fuel for transportation of troops and weapons make up 70 percent of the Pentagon’s emissions. Ironically, earlier this year the Pentagon released a 22-page report to Congress stating the ⅔ of their mission-essential installation in the US are vulnerable to flooding, and ½ are susceptible to wildfires. To no surprise, Trump rejected those findings at the time. The Pentagon is now concerned with the impact climate change has on their “foreign missions.”
With tensions high with Iran, and several thousand troops are expected to be deployed, if war with Iran is to happen, it may lead us to a more damaged planet that may not recover. This makes the Pentagon guilty of killing people and the earth. The Department of Defense has consistently used between 77-80% of the entire US energy consumption. We see spikes during times of massive war (since America is in a constant state of war), like in 1991, 2001, and so on.
Here is a list of the seven significant sources of greenhouse emissions done by the Department of Defense:
- Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
- War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.
- Emissions caused by US military industry — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
- Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
- Sources of emissions by other belligerents.
- Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
- Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.
This impact on the climate is just the portion from America, in the Iraq war, 37 countries fought alongside America, and 60 are allied against ISIS. There is a way to calculate those emissions as well.
The Rules of War
Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad instructed his soldiers:
- Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
- Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta)
- Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)
- Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. (Al-Muwatta)
- If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam. (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
- Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
- Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle. (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
- Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience. (Sahih Muslim)
- No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire. (Sunan Abu Dawud).
- Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and not to do wrong even if they commit evil. (Al-Tirmidhi)
A verse in the Holy Qur’an
4:75 (Y. Ali) And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”
How does this potential war against Iran play into all this?
Our first call to action is to organize an anti-war rally. This type of work is weak in America, and virtually non-existent within the Muslim community.
فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ أَمَّا هَذَا فَقَدْ قَضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ “ مَنْ رَأَى مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُنْكِرْهُ بِيَدِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ ” . قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ .
Abu Sa’eed said: ‘As for this, he has fulfilled what is upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. Whoever is not able, then with his tongue, and whoever is not able, then with his heart. That is the weakest of faith.”‘
War with Iran will be a Greater Mistake than War with Iraq
Historically, anti-war sentiment in America has grown over the years. When the Iraq war first started only 23% thought it was a mistake, today it is close to 60% that believe the war is a mistake. Yes, this is in hindsight, but that it is also growth. The reason the anti-war movement is feeble in America is that there is no platform for the campaign to grow. Both parties are guilty of starting wars or taking over the wars from the past administration. Whether we do it alone as an individual or as a group, we should do everything we can as privileged members of this planet to save and protect those that can’t defend themselves.
There is a famous quote of the famed boxer Muhammad Ali when explaining why he wasn’t fighting in the war. He said, “…I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.”
With that said, there is a significant interest in the region for more than just fuel and resources. It is truly a problem, our operations in the Gulf is to address our dependency on Persian oil, and the fuel that is used to address our dependence is to protect those resources and access to them. One estimate is that America spends $81 billion annually defending the global oil supply. They do this because the DOD feels its dependency will make it vulnerable on a larger scale.
In 1975 America decided to take away the fear of losing the resources and developed the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” and in 1978, they created the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Their only purpose was to defend US interest in the Middle East. This, in turn, leads to extractivism of resources and supplies. (Which will be explained in a future article).
This war can be the end of all wars as it can accelerate us to the point of no return in regards to climate change.
A war with Iran is a war with Earth and all who live on it.
5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today
“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.
Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.
In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”
Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1
The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.
In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.
Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”
They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2
On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.
I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.
As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).
How Can You Help Uyghurs
Here are a few things you can do to help:
1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).
2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.
4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products
5. Follow these links for updated information: facebook.com/Uyghur-Human-Rights-Project-227634297289994/ and facebook.com/ChinaMuslims
This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.
1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. https://u.osu.edu/mclc/2018/11/27/statement-by-concerned-scholars-on-mass-detention s/
2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From …. https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-its-so-difficult-journalists-report-xinjiang