Bahrain or Bust?

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan should think twice before meddling in the Middle East.

By Miranda Husain

Less than three weeks after Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces, led by Saudi Arabia, entered Bahrain to aid the anti-democracy crackdown there, dignitaries from both oil-rich kingdoms did their separate rounds in Pakistan. The royal houses of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are nervous, and they need Pakistan’s mercenaries, and—if necessary—military muscle to shore them up.

This is a remarkable turn of events for Asif Ali Zardari, who had been trying since he was elected president in 2008 to secure Saudi oil on sweetheart terms. He had been unsuccessful in his efforts because the Sunni Saudis view his leadership with some degree of skepticism. It also doesn’t help that Zardari, a Shia, is big on improving relations with Shia Tehran. Riyadh now appears inclined to export oil on terms that better suit cash-strapped Islamabad. Manama, too, wants to play ball. It wants increased defense cooperation and has pledged to prioritize Pakistan’s hopes for a free-trade agreement with the GCC in return. But Zardari and his Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, should fight the urge to get mired in the Middle East.

Pakistan already has a presence in Bahrain: a battalion of the Azad Kashmir Regiment was deployed there over a year ago to train local troops, and retired officers from our Navy and Army are part of their security forces. Media estimates put the number of Pakistanis serving in Bahrain’s security establishment at about 10,000. Their removal has been a key demand of protesters in the kingdom. Last month in Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani reportedly assured Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, that Pakistan would offer more retired manpower to help quell the uprising against Bahrain’s Sunni rulers by its Shia majority. Gilani’s spokesman was unable to confirm the pledge.
Islamabad’s support to the tottering regime in Manama is not ideal.

“It’s like our version of Blackwater,” says Talat Masood, a former Pakistan Army general, referring to Bahrain’s recruitment drive in Pakistan. “We’re doing [in Bahrain] exactly what we have been opposing here,” he says. Pakistan, he maintains, has no business in trying to suppress a democratic, people’s movement in another country. Short-term economic gains cannot be the only prism through which Pakistan views its national interests, he says.

Pakistan has a long history of military involvement and training in the Arab world. Its pilots flew warplanes in the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict, and volunteered for the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Involvement in Bahrain’s current strife would not be the first time that Pakistan has used its military might to thwart an Arab uprising against an Arab regime. In 1970, future military dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, then head of the Pakistani military training mission in Jordan, led his soldiers to intervene on the side of Amman to quash a Palestinian challenge to its rule.

Some Bahraini opposition groups have called on the U.S. to intervene to get the GCC troops out of their country, fearing it could become a battleground in a Saudi-Iranian battle for regional supremacy. They stress that they share no real affinity with the theocratic regime in Shia-majority Iran, while noting that a number of Bahraini Sunni Muslims have also come out in the streets to call for greater reforms.

Pakistani involvement, therefore, could result in it being embroiled in a proxy war, with serious implications for its own security interests.

The issue of Iran is important, but there’s a deeper issue, according to author Noam Chomsky. “By historical and geographical accident, the main concentration of global energy resources is in the northern Gulf region, which is predominantly Shia,” he told Newsweek Pakistan.

Bahrain, he points out, neighbors eastern Saudi Arabia, where most of the latter’s oil is. “Western planners have long been concerned that a tacit Shia alliance might take shape with enormous control over the world’s energy resources, and perhaps not be reliably obedient to the U.S.”

Bahrain, which like Pakistan was designated a major non-NATO ally by the George W. Bush presidency, is home to the Fifth Fleet. It is the primary U.S. base in the region and allows Washington to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, while keeping checks on Iran.

Chomsky believes that Pakistani presence in Bahrain can be seen as part of a U.S.-backed alliance to safeguard Western access to the region’s oil.

“The U.S. has counted on Pakistan to help control the Arab world and safeguard Arab rulers from their own populations,” says Chomsky.

“Pakistan was one of the ‘cops on the beat’ that the Nixon administration had in mind when outlining their doctrine for controlling the Arab world,” he says. Pakistan has such “severe internal problems” that it may not be able to play this role even if asked to. But the real reason that Pakistan should avoid this role is so that it can stand on the right side of history, alongside those who are fighting for democracy.

Newsweek

13-16

Cricket Tour / Contest for DeLay’s Seat / Houston Local Cricket

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Never Forget the South Asian Quake, Says Pakistan Cricket Team

Islamic Relief Volunteers from the US, UK and Pakistan were already operating on the Azad Kashmir Line of Control when the huge earthquake struck the South Asian Region at 8:50 am Pakistan time, on October 8, 2005.
Many volunteers lost loved ones in the catastrophe, which was twenty times more damaging than Hurricane Katrina which had hit New Orleans just before, on August 25, 2005.
Former captains of the Pakistan Cricket Team, Rashid Latif and Moin Khan and record-holder, first-class c cricketer and coach Haris Ahmed Khan, joined hands with Islamic Relief and went deep into the Neelum Valley to work with their own bare hands to assist those in the region who have lost almost everything.
After what they saw, they determined it would take years to build the lives of the devastated people. Having witnessed many heart-wrenching and dreadful stories of poor people of the region, these three celebrities of Pakistan Cricket came for a long and tiring fundraising effort in North America, which took them to California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Ontario Canada.
During their stay in Texas, they came to Dallas and Houston. In Dallas, they raised more than $200,000, while in an unscheduled last-minute Houston event they were able to raise more than $15,000.
Rashid, Moin and Haris all said that these people may have lost everything and may even have lost their natural emotions or grief, but all of them have the rest of the world to assist them. Many people promised to help—most of those promises were fulfilled. For years to come, the need is so immense that even if we have given to them, we still need to go back to our wallets and pockets and keep giving for another five to eight years.
The cricketers praised the efforts of Islamic Relief and the disciplined manner in which they have taken up this huge task, with just 6% overhead.
For more information on this fundraising humanitarian trip, and for information on ongoing humanitarian projects, call Anwar Khan of Islamic Relief at 1-818-216-9723.

Mayor of Sugarland Wants to take Tom DeLay’s Seat

The popular mayor, David G. Wallace, of Sugarland Texas, wants to take the seat of Tom DeLay, whenever he will decide to vacate.
Toward this end, he is meeting several people in the communities in Texas and also planning to travel to New York and other places to raise funds.
Recently he met, at Lassani Restaurant, a bipartisan group representing Texas communities of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians.
He said that, having done his job to the best of his abilities at the local level, he now has aspirations to provide service to the people of America by being in the congress. He said although he is not well abreast about all foreign affairs issues, he is interacting with several communities to learn from them how they think about these problems of the world.
He said he is the advocate for low-interest rates to enhance the economy, and will work to build a better lifestyle for all Americans and to build fruitful measures for small businesses.

New Houston Pakistan/India Cricket Win-Loss Record: Tied at 4 and 4!

It was 1998 when the first annual Pakistan v. India Houston Players Cricket Match was played. Ever since then, every April third, these two traditional teams play against each other in a most disciplined, high-class and friendly manner.
The game has been played without a hitch except one year when it was cancelled for rain. Of the remaining years, the win-loss record is as follows: Pakistan has won four times and India three times; this year India won, making the record 4 and 4.
The match was played at the beautiful Harris County Tom-Bass Park. Pakistan scored 232, while India crossed the score when they had two wickets and few balls left to play.
Elegant left handed batsman Sushil made 115*, the first century of these traditional matches. Sushil was declared the Most Valuable Player of the Match. Majid of Pakistan was affirmed as the best bowler for his three quick wickets, which made the game even poised and most exciting at one stage. Captain Rafay of Pakistan for his 45 was given the best batsman award.
Those interested in playing cricket or wanting to know more about this game in Houston, please visit the website of the Houston Cricket League: http://www.houstoncricket. com/