The Foreign Office has refuted reports that it was deploying its troops in Qatar in the wake of the oil-rich country’s current standoff with other Gulf countries. Last week, Saudi Arabia along with several Gulf states severed diplomatic ties with Qatar after accusing it of supporting terrorist groups. The false reports that Pakistan was sending troops to the beleaguered country were already farcical when they came out, considering that Pakistan, despite mass public dissent, blindly agreed to join Saudi Arabia’s military collation. And, when there was across-the-board criticism of the US and Saudia Arabia for not acknowledging Pakistan’s role in last month at the Riyadh summit, our government went to the extent of making excuses for the Saudi’s saying that there was just not enough time for them to allow our PM to speak.

We have always hitched our wagon to the Kingdom, and despite close economic ties with Qatar, there is no way that Pakistan would risk its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is home to more than 1.9 million Pakistanis, mostly unskilled workers. Qatar hosts only 115,000 Pakistani citizens. Any attempts to expel Pakistani workers or block remittances could have a major effect on Pakistan’s economy. Saudi Arabia tops the list of countries with the highest remittances to Pakistan, with $4.52bn in funds sent home by Pakistanis in the current fiscal year, according to Pakistan’s central bank. The UAE comes in next at $3.47bn.

Yet, its must also be acknowledged that what is happening to Qatar is hardly fair. Pakistan has also often been labelled a “state sponsor of terrorism”; a false claim, yet it has led to our country becoming a pariah in international relations. Iran has been meted out the same treatment, and now it is Qatar’s turn. People in Pakistan cannot help but be sympathetic to the plight of the Qatari people, because the all evidence of terrorism, and terrorist funding, points to countries other than Pakistan, Iran and Qatar.

While, for pragmatic purposes, we cannot reach out to Qatar, except to offer mediation, the events since General Raheel Sharif tied Pakistan to Saudi interests have been far from positive for us. We have no conflict with Iran, or Qatar, or Turkey, or Yemen, or Russia, but due to our soft spot for Saudi Arabia, we unwittingly pick sides. It is time to assert neutrality, and to remain diplomatically aloof from the quicksand of the Middle East. We have picked China as our ticket to economic progress, and the only foreign policy we need to act on is that with makes us the most money and most sustainably. All other emotional considerations need to be put aside.