Penny for your thoughts
The main opposition parties in the parliament are criticizing the present government for not disclosing the name of the friendly Muslim country which has gifted $1.5 billion aid to Pakistan. Opposition parties are apprehending that the significant aid may be to deploy Pak forces in the Middle East to safeguard Saudi interest and other Arab countries.
It is largely believed that the trusted friend is Saudi Arabia which gifted Pakistan $1.5 billion to help shore up its foreign exchange reserves, meet debt-service obligations and undertake large energy and infrastructure projects.
Whether it is a gift or something else, but the assistance has contributed to a sharp recovery of the Pakistani rupee, which rose to a nine-month high of 97.40 from 105.40 against the dollar between March 4 and 12, its strongest rally in 30 years.
Every country has a right to safeguard its interests and they do it the way it suits them. The argument that most of the critics are making is that any involvement in the Shia-Sunni tussle in Arab region would have repercussions back at home. The most glaring example is that when Pakistan joined the US war against terror for economic gains, it instead economically harmed the country tremendously and even shook the core of her existence as a nation. The war has now become solely ours as the US and Nato forces will soon exit the region thus leaving the war against terrorism to Pakistan.
Political parties in the opposition may have their own axe to grind but the experience with the US and Saudi freebies are different. While US has always adopted carrot and stick policy for Pakistan, Riyadh has always shown her generosity and support to Pakistan in difficult times, whether its following the US sanctions after nuclear test or the devastating earthquake.
Saudi Arabia has always willed for a strong Pakistan, probably in order to counter the overwhelming Israeli military sway in the Middle East, in case the Jewish state with US backing, tries naked aggression to change the Arab political map. In case of any such aggression, Pakistan would be the only stick that the Saudis may hold. The Saudi rulers know that the well-trained Pakistani soldiers, on active duty or retired, will fight as valiantly for Saudi Arabia as for Pakistan and even more because of the holiest of holy Muslim sites there.
Adviser to Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz said that Pakistan has not changed its foreign policy due to foreign funding.
Under the circumstances, the government in Pakistan should take all the stakeholders in confidence and consider all aspects wisely to accept all kinds of assistance from the Arab states whether it is in the form of financial aid, loans, investment or trade with the understanding that no strings should be attached.
There is no doubt that the relation between the two countries is historic and unique. The government should not be nervous about the criticism regarding Saudi help. The existing relations would need to be strengthened in the days to come and cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan would be mutually beneficial for both the nations.