As the Saudi-led air assault on Yemen stagnates, heated words are flying among the Sunni nations over Pakistan’s apparent refusal to get involved in the fight. The Wall Street Journal reports:
“Pakistan is asked to take a clear position for the interest of its strategic relations with GCC states,” [UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar] Gargash wrote in one of a series of Twitter posts Friday, reacting to the vote in Pakistan’s Parliament. “Contradictory and equivocal positions have a high cost in this crucial affair.”
“This moment of truth distinguishes true allies from media and rhetorical allies,” he wrote.
Pakistani politicians shot back:
“Monarchies perhaps do not understand the restrictions imposed on the government of Pakistan by being a democracy,” said Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, a senator with the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement. “Parliament is the voice of the people of Pakistan.”
The Emiratis understand who is really calling the shots in Pakistan’s foreign policy (not its parliament), and they aren’t happy that the “deep state” has decided not to jump into Yemen just yet. The Saudis, however, appeared much less perturbed. Following the visit of Iran’s foreign minister to Pakistan last week, Saudi Arabia’s minister for religious affairs arrived in Islamabad for consultations. “The resolution passed by Pakistan’s parliament is Pakistan’s internal matter,” he said. “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have had very strong relations ever since Pakistan’s creation…we should try and improve these ties as best we can.” His schedule was not made public.
So why, despite the billions the Saudis have poured into Pakistan, do they seem rather unbothered by its prevarications, to the point of talking about “improving ties”? One very important reason: The Saudis see the Yemen fight as part of a broader regional struggle against Shi’a Iran, and Pakistan has the only Sunni bomb. If things get worse, the Saudis will come to collect their debts in concrete—or rather, uranium—assets.