Beggars can’t be choosers. The proverbial veracity manifested, when Pakistani government, on Yemeni issue, after wavering and cowering, seemed buckling under Saudi pressure. Neutrality in inter-Middle Eastern conflict is a wiser choice, and uncharacteristically our government seems to grasp the repercussions of embroiling itself in an Arab feud. However, it is as predictable as cloud on the horizon that for long, we will not be able to resist the Saudi pressure. Saudis have invested too much for too long. Even if by some divine intervention, we are able to dodge the Saudi demand of sending troops to Yemen, soon enough Saudis will be back at our door, seeking the services for which  they have paid us a hefty sum.

Today, Middle East and Levant is on the verge of  sectarian blood bath. Arab bloc, led by Saudi Arabia is fighting tooth and nail with Shiite Iran, over sectarian primacy.  To Saudis, greatest threat in the Middle East emanates from Iran’s sectarianism and its support of regional proxies, something which Saudis are struggling hard to counter.

The situation was already untenable in the Middle East, but fat really hit the fire with the US invasion of Iraq, creating chaos and upheaval in its wake, presenting an opportunity for Iran and Saudi Arabia to square off in Mesopotamia. This struggle widened  as regimes in Syria, Egypt, and Libya faced internal revolts. In Iraq, Iran helped the Maliki regime  to strengthen its grip on power, where Saudis supported ISIS to counter Shiite domination. In Syria, Iran is backing Bashar-al-Assad, whereas the House of Sauds and its allies are pouring millions, arming and training  Syrian rebels. In Egypt, Iran supported the elected government of President Morsi, ultimately deposed by Saudi supported General Sisi.  In Lebanon, despite of efforts from United States, Israel and Saud, Iran backed Hezbollah is stronger than ever.

GCC countries have spent billions in fighting off Iranian influence, but despite of serious handicaps, Iran has an upper hand in this conflict. Saudis fear that if Iran and United States come to an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, resulting in suspension of sanctions, it could give Iran resources a free hand to expand it’s sectarian war.

To stave off such an eventuality, Saudis have provided  billions in aid to some  Sunni client states, with an intent of developing these into strategic assets, available at their beck and call. Among these Pakistan with its nukes is perhaps the most important. Owing to our bad fiscal state, we are always in a need of foreign help and Saudis have been very generous, becoming a source of quick cash and oil. Munificence of Saudi royal family doesn’t end here. It gave refuge to our incumbent PM, who was deposed, incarcerated and persecuted by General Pervez Musharraf.

We are already playing an important role in the internal security of Arab States. Large number of  Pakistani expatriates are working in Middle East and many retired security services professionals are part of security establishment of nearly all  GCC states. During the Pearl Square demonstrations, Bahraini authorities deployed Pakistani ex-servicemen to quell the  protests.

In exchange of largesse, Saudis demanded that we become part of their host in Yemen, to fight off the houthi rebels. Our government adopted the stance of neutrality, which eventually it will cast aside. If we got away this time, another crisis in Middle East might prompt Saudis to ask us to fulfill commitments, our leadership made under the table.

Instead of blaming Saudis and telling them to mind their own business, we should blame our leaders for mortgaging our country’s foreign policy. If our leadership is sincere, it should work to decrease reliance on foreign aid, stop accepting foreign gifts, build strong economy, and be transparent regarding it’s dealings with foreign governments. Until then all talk of sovereignty and independence are as hollow as our stance of neutrality on Yemen.