Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s visit to Pakistan brought with it a raft of economic deals, investments and financial boons – which are especially important during a period of economic instability for the country. The relationship between the two countries, as well as the two leaders of the country, seems to be deepening quite appreciably – despite the Saudi question hanging in the background.

Qatar’s troubled relations with Saudi Arabia, and its allied emirates, don’t seem to be improving anytime soon, and given our recent overtures to the Kingdom cooperation between Qatar and Pakistan would have raised eyebrows across the Arabian Sea. However, senior officials at the foreign ministry were quick to lay any untoward assumptions to rest; Islamabad and Riyadh had been in contact and Saudi Arabia had not objected to the Pak-Qatar friendship.

That is good to hear. Pakistan has had a difficult time juggling its obligations to the Middle East states and Qatar remains a key piece of the Afghan peace puzzle. The subject, and regional peace in general, were under discussion during the visit – it would take the concentrated efforts of both nations to push the matter towards resolution.

However, regional peace remains a far-fetched notion at the moment. As the Qatar’s Emir was leaving Pakistan United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was hours away from touching down in Riyadh, where he held talks on Monday with Saudi leaders regarding the on-going crisis regarding Iran. If the recent uptick in provocations, posturing and rhetoric is anything to go by, this visit further delineates the battle lines, and who stands on what side.

Pakistan might have been able to stay unaligned and ambivalent during the Saudi-Qatar standoff without much consequence, but doing so during the current US-Iran escalation seems like an impossible task. If the situation deteriorates any further, Pakistan might have a war on its borders and upon its waters – this situation must be avoided at all costs.

Pakistan cannot rely on simply maintaining a non-aligned stance and hoping it will carry it through any crisis that comes its way. We must have our response ready, and our diplomats must be utilised to their fullest extent to bring the region back from the brink. It is astonishing to think that this brewing conflict in the region has drawn no attention from the elected government or the Parliament. We cannot afford to sit idly on the fence any longer.