The Pakistani masses have reacted very negatively to the prospects of becoming an accomplice in the Saudi Monarchy’s brutal aggression against Yemen. This response has shocked Pakistan’s ruling elite, the state’s bosses, the media and the intelligentsia. Even some in the media have dared to reveal the vicious character of the despotic Saudi regime and its atrocious treatment of more than 2.5 million Pakistani immigrant workers banished into slavery and drudgery by these tyrannical monarchs
The hesitation, lack of any confidence, and hypocrisy of the rulers is pathetic. An official Press report stated that, “Pakistan called upon the United Nations, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the international community to play a constructive role in finding a political solution to the crisis in Yemen. An official statement from the PM House (Prime Minister’s Office) had said the meeting concluded that Pakistan remains firmly committed to supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. It was also emphasised in the meeting that Pakistan is committed to playing a meaningful role in resolving the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.”
What a laughable, pathetic and spineless response! What is said about consulting the ‘parliament’ and informing the people is a reeking cynical farce. These rulers themselves are mere timid puppets. Usually they are only informed about military operations and crucial foreign policy decisions after the fact by the top bosses of the state and their imperialist masters. These are the real people calling the shots.
Saudi Arabia’s influence in Pakistan
The influence of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan should not be underestimated. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was granted amnesty under pressure from the Saudi Monarchs and spent his years in exile after Musharraf’s coup in 1999 in Saudi Arabia. During Sharif’s time in Saudi Arabia he was a guest of the Royal family who were also his business partners. His return to the country and his road to power was paved by the Saudi Royals. On his coming to power in 2013 he was doled out a gift of $1.5 billion by the Saudi government. Despite his frequent visits and business deals with China, Turkey and Qatar, and his bondage with his American masters, he is still most indebted to the Saudi monarchy. At the same time, Saudi Arabia regularly provides free oil for Pakistan’s military and other ‘gifts’ on regular basis. With tanks, fighter planes and naval ships running on Saudi oil, it is not an option for the Pakistani ruling class to disobey their masters orders. Pakistan’s Mullahs and religious parties from Wahhabi sects also regularly receive large donations to run their madrassas and terrorist outfits. Saudi Arabia was the first country in the whole world to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan back in 1996.
Saudi Arabia has always been a bossy key player in Pakistani politics for a long time. Along with doling out large sums of money for the Army and the clerics, they have been instrumental in toppling unwanted governments and bringing their favourites to power. All of this was being done in cooperation with US Imperialism. But since the US-Saudi alliance has begun to crack, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Pakistani ruling class to serve two masters at the same time.
For the working masses, this Saudi patronage for the right wing parties and the ruling class of Pakistan has always been presented as a kindness from their religious brothers in the “holy land”. But those Pakistanis who work in this “holy land” know the disgusting truth; that for the Saudi rulers they are merely considered slaves and untouchables. They can never attain a Saudi nationality and always need a Saudi citizen’s approval to live or do any business in the country. The Saudi regime’s contemptuous attitude towards Pakistanis is laid bare by the fact that no Pakistani under the age of 40 is allowed to perform Umra - a form of pilgrimage of the holy Kaaba - in all other months than the the month of the Hajj. Only Pakistani Muslims are subjected to this prohibition. Millions of Pakistanis, mainly from the petit bourgeoisie, visit Mecca and Medina for Hajj every year. This is a huge source of income for the Saudi regime.
Why is Saudi Arabia attacking Yemen?
On the other hand the Saudi Army, which is the fourth most costly in the world, has never gone to war. When the Saudis moved to crush the revolution in Bahrain in 2011, they relied heavily on Pakistani soldiers and mercenaries. The Saudis have also, allegedly, recently called for the Pakistani army to deploy 30,000 troops on the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Syria to defend the House of Saud against an impending attack by the ISIL. It is clear that the kingdom does not trust its own forces that could just as well turn their expensive arms against the Royalty itself. It shows the intrinsic weakness of this despotic regime and the fears of the ruling elite.
Saudi Arabian fighter aircraft have been ferociously bombing targets across Yemen, killing hundreds if not thousands of civilians, including children. It is clear that this figure will dramatically rise as the targets of the attack are moving into the civilian populated areas in Sana’a and in the northern Houthi villages which are expected to be heavily bombed. Refugee camps, factories and congested populated civilian areas are being bombed. The infrastructure, whole towns and cities are being destroyed and turned into ruins. Along with the ‘holy’ alliance of the Arab states, Israel has also supported the bombings. This reveals the decline of the system. These events are now exposing the farce of Saudi foreign policy towards Israel, the disingenuous anti-Israel rhetoric, and the hollow slogans of Palestinian freedom. It shows the class unity of the rulers of repressive regimes and why workers from all religions and nationalities should come together and fight against this cruel system.
Yet again, Yemen, which is the poorest Arab country, has become a target for savage attacks by the Saudi regime and its Arab and non-Arab allies.
The burgeoning domestic crisis, Saudi Arabia’s waning hegemony in the region and the rising desperation of the reactionary Al Saud family, with its growing internal conflicts, has brought desperation to the present clique that came to power along with the new King, Salman. His thirty-year-old son, Mohammad, who has been appointed the new defence minister, is a bully gone berserk. In reality they are trying to protect the Saudi ruling class and its imperialist designs in the Middle East. The Saudis could not accept the disintegration of Yemen and it falling into the hands of Iranian backed forces on its southern borders. Since the Iraq war, Iran and to a minor extent Qatar have developed into the biggest threat to the supremacy of Saudi Arabia in the region. Turkey is also expanding its influence by supporting IS in Iraq and Syria and other proxies in the region.
This conflict has exacerbated tensions and bloody conflicts between Saudi and Iranian proxies in the region in which sectarian hatred is being imposed by the warring mercenaries. The Iranian regime has not only been supporting clerics and sectarian terrorist outfits in Pakistan, but in many other countries in the region as well. Reactionary Shia clerics and religious parties are heavily funded across the Middle East by the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime also attempted to divert the revolutionary movement in Bahrain on sectarian lines. This movement was a threat to both Saudi and Iranian interests, and both regimes tried to crush it in their own way. Similarly, the Iranian regime tried to intervene in other movements of the Arab revolution and impose their own narrow agenda. The collapse of Mubarak in Egypt and the temporary retreat of the Arab revolutionary upheaval provided them with an opportunity to step up their intervention in the region. Because of the internal crisis of the Iranian State and decaying economy, they use the threat of external enemies to prop up their rule at home.
In these circumstances, the Iranian mullah regime used the rise of the IS to rally sectarian support. Similarly, Saudi aggression in Yemen will provide them with more excuses for spreading their influence. The regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been used by both regimes for this purpose. But the sectarianism they have spawned has not been able to find fertile ground to spread on a mass scale. In fact, the masses are becoming wary of the situation of which they are the victims. Although the Arab revolution has receded without achieving its ultimate goals, the possibility of sharp swings in public opinion is implicit in the situation.
The Pakistani army for hire
The intervention of Pakistan’s military in the Middle East is not a new phenomenon. They have been used as mercenaries by the reactionary and despotic regimes of the Middle East for decades. One of the most gruesome episodes was the massacre of the Palestinians in Jordan in 1970 to protect the monarchy there. From 1967 to 1970, Brigadier Muhammad Zia ul Haq was stationed in Jordan in Official Military Capacity to protect the Hashemite Kingdom. On September 15, 1970, King Hussein declared martial law in Jordan to crush a revolutionary uprising of the Palestinians. The next day, Jordanian tanks of the 60th Armoured Brigade attacked the headquarters of Palestinian organizations in Amman while the army also attacked camps in Irbid, Salt, Sweileh, Baq’aa, Wehdat and Zarqa. Then the head of the Pakistani training mission to Jordan, Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (later Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan), took command of the 2nd division. King Hussain took this extraordinary step because he was terrified that the Jordanian generals would refuse to massacre fellow Palestinians and could turn their guns against him. The American backed Jordanian army shelled the PLO headquarters in Amman and battled with Palestinian guerrillas in the narrow streets of the capital. Yasir Arafat had later claimed that the Jordanian and Pakistani troops killed between 10,000 and 25,000 Palestinians.
The intensity of the bloodletting by Zia ul Haq and King Hussain was such that one of the founder fathers of Israel, Moshe Dayan, cynically remarked:“King Hussein, with help from Zia-ul-Haq of the Pakistani army, sent in his Bedouin army on 27 September to clear out the Palestinian bases in Jordan. Hussein killed more Palestinians in eleven days than Israel could kill in twenty years.” Also, a year later, they participated in the bloody civil war and massacres in East Bengal. Again, in the 1980’s, Zia ul Haq, who was now the head of state, rented the Pakistani military institutions to American Imperialism and forged the “dollar jihad” to overthrow the Afghan revolution of 1978.
A state of crisis
However, any direct intervention of the Pakistani troops in this Saudi aggression against Yemen will be much more dangerous. This intervention would come back to bite the ruling classes and the state. It could severely harm Pakistan’s relationship with Iran and incite protest by the masses. The indecisiveness of the ruling elite exposes their fear and cowardice. Currently, the Pakistani State is quite different to what it was in the 1970s or 1980s. It is now at war with itself. A cruel operation is being carried out in Baluchistan on a vast scale in which hundreds of Baluchi militants have been killed and their mutilated bodies thrown in streets. Helicopter gunships are used to annihilate whole villages and towns in which women and children are mercilessly killed.
A so called operation against the Taliban is also being carried out in tribal regions along the Afghan border. In this fake operation, many ordinary Pashtoons are killed on the pretext of killing Taliban while real terrorists are protected by the State and its army. In Karachi, the Army is also involved in a mutually destructive conflict between the neo-fascist MQM, and Taliban terrorists and other reactionary forces.
On the eastern border, skirmishes with the Indian army are a regular occurrence. Continuous attempts are made to smuggle terrorists into Indian held Kashmir and other parts of India. The ruling class on both sides never wants to give anything up. They whip up hatred against each other in order to continue their oppressive rule at home and to justify the buildup of expensive nuclear arsenals at the expense of endless poverty and misery.
Suicide bombs, lynching by mobs and other terrorist activities in which the warring factions of the Pakistani state is involved have become a normality. The Pakistani State always relies on sectarian hatred to continue its oppression of the working masses. Saudi and Iranian Riyals for clerics and terrorist outfits are considered as donations from holy lands by the ruling class. This sectarian hatred found fertile ground amongst some layers of the middle-class in the 1980s after the defeat of the revolution. The Neo-fascist MQM in Karachi was also built in those times to divide the proletarians of Karachi on communal lines. But now, it is becoming increasingly difficult for reactionary outfits to appeal to these layers and find mass following. All attempts to organize mass marches by religious alliances, supported by secret agencies and the bourgeois media, end up as a gathering of a few hundred people. Most of these people are paid to attend or are promised benefits and perks.
The state, the army and the various secret agencies are all in a state of crisis, and the different factions within them are in open war with each other. The army has its hands in everything from real estate development to the drug trade. The distribution of heroin and other drugs from Afghanistan’s opium fields to the Arabian Sea and from there to parts of Europe and Africa is making an estimated 100 billion dollars per year. This is the main source of income for many in the ruling circles including Parliamentarians, Generals, Judges and top bureaucrats.
All of this leads to is more bloodletting as the warring factions of the state clash. At the same time, sectarianism is destabilising the army itself. If Pakistan is thrown into the Yemeni conflict this problem will get worse. A sectarian conflict can have a devastating effect on the already decaying and demoralised army. It could lead to the destabilisation of the state itself.
Pakistani society is at an impasse. Unemployment exists on a massive scale. Street crimes, prostitution, drug addiction and general decay is on the rise. All of this provides breeding ground for reactionary and terrorist outfits. Although reactionary state sponsored groups have not been able to gain mass support, lynch mobs killing people on religious grounds are normal occurrences. A conflict in Yemen could lead to further disintegration and chaos.
However, the Pakistani working class has a long history of struggle. Pakistani workers also have a strong bond to Yemeni workers and workers in other gulf states. However much the ruling class tries to divide the working class, class solidarity will always emerge eventually.
In the past, Baluchi student leaders defied the attempts by the Pakistani state to send Baluchis to Oman and Bahrain as mercenaries. Those student leaders had to pay for this with their lives. The reactionary acts of ruling classes of the Middle East and Pakistan can lead to a revolutionary response from the working class and revolutionary youth. Class solidarity is the only way out of this mayhem.
From the shores of the Mediterranean to the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East is descending into bloody chaos and barbarism. This is the only outcome under capitalism. However, the Arab revolution proved that once the masses move all the reactionaries can be easily swept aside. Without the overthrow of the reactionary regimes, from the Israeli Zionists to the Saudi despotic monarchy, and from the Mullahcracy in Iran to the rotten Pakistani ruling elite, no way out is possible. Without a socialist revolution, the crisis in the middle east will not be resolved. Such is the intensity of the capitalist crisis that a revolutionary transformation in any one country can, and must, quickly spread throughout the entire region.