The PML-N government is reminding me increasingly of the larki-wallas in a terribly unequal marriage. The kind where the HemaMalini-style cleaning woman marries the Dharmendra-sahib of the house, except devoid of all the charm and scrappy spiritedness that a Malini character would have, or the kindly, indulgent twinkle a Dharmendra man would have. It’s that awful kowtowing, forever leaving a room backwards doing a sweeping-farshi-adaab kind of servile situation where the girl’s parents are supposed to feel indebted and overawed by the Thakur’s son who deigned to cast his favour upon their daughter. We are the daughter, poor little Pakistan, who is plucky and pretty and could really amount to something if only she believed in herself—and like Cinderella, didn’t have a nasty, evil stepmother out to self-aggrandize and sabotage her at every turn. The Saudis are the Thakur, sans sweet and liberal son who loves you despite his despotic, nasty parents. There’s really no win here, no fairy godmother since the Americans don’t want to play any more and since the nation has been crippled by bombs and inflation.

What are our troops doing in Yemen? That’s the question one is really getting at. What are our troops, the ‘every kind of armed force’ that our Prime Minister has promised, doing there? What is so crushingly important that our army has to be siphoned off from Zarb-e-Azb and packed off to help the Saudis? Prime Minister Sharif has effusively promised the new Abdulaziz king that Pakistan will help them with open hearts and open access to our troops. How nice for the Saudis, to have such good friends. They have, after all, been such good friends themselves, giving our exiled leaders a home, furnishing them with dubious loans at heaven knows what cost to us and generously funding the madrassahs and terrorist outfits that our troops are so busy trying to control now. With ‘friends’ like the Saudis, who needs enemies? And since Master Sharif has obviously sold us—not even to the highest bidder, which might have benefited us in some way, but the bidder who interests him the most—we are now hostages. The Prime Minister, elected representative of the democratic people of Pakistan, has turned into our evil stepmother and married us to Mogambo. Unlike Paro in Devdas who, miserable as she was, was at least was the wife of the Thakur—weare the poor enslaved fourth wife who has to cringe and cook for everyone else whilst they mock her and insult her family.

Of course, the PM is also most concerned about the safe evacuation of Pakistani families in Yemen. Making sure they get home safe is a very real concern. Naturally. That’s why we have to send in our own troops to get them, because we can’t trust anyone else with the safety of our fellow Pakistanis. That’s why we sent troops to Syria and Egypt, heck even Youhanabad, because safeguarding the lives of Pakistanis is very, very important to this government.

Who pays for the army? We do. Who pays for the Prime Minister’s official house, utility bills of said house, the salaries of his security detail and the entourage that accompanies him when he travels? We do. Why doesn’t that translate into more of a say in the decisions taken by the state? We have been full of praise for General Sharif too, with his seemingly firm stance on how to tackle the terrorists and yet he is quiet, and the PM has blithely given the Saudis any kind of military assistance they need from us. Why should our men (and some women, although with the Saudis it’s probably best they stay home) fight for a Saudi agenda in another Muslim country, against, presumably, other Muslims? The Saudi agenda has always been a dodgy one at best, and their eternal feud with Iran is no new thing. What business have we then to join the Gulf posse in their war on Iran? With so much sectarian and religious turmoil in our own home, it is the height of presumption and foolishness to jump into what is essentially a Sunni-versus-Shia proxy war. We need all hands to be on deck. We need to protect the Pakistanis in Pakistan first, and then look to the rest of the world. It’s one thing to contribute troops to the United Nations peacekeeping forces to try and stop genocide, like one did in Bosnia. It’s quite another to, as we say colloquially, take pangay.

But what choice have we, I wonder? Our poor brave soldiers are being shipped off to fight someone else’s fight. It isn’t even a fight one could find something noble or heroic in. This is no brave last stand against tyranny, no walking out into high noon for a last shootout. Our boys are going to be cannon fodder so that the Saudis can indulge their Shia-hysteria. The Saudis, who pay people here to kill Shias and now are getting us to fight Iran for free. It’s disgusting. And we are helpless, because our stepmother is wicked and has betrayed us.