The news trickling out of Pakistan suggest that Pakistan is seriously considering deploying Pakistan Army to aid the dictators of Bahrain against their own people. This, obviously, is a humiliating and troubling turn in Pakistani foreign policy: it will put us on the wrong side of history and make our army into a mercenary force for hire by powerful tyrants.
Reportedly, the foreign minister of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, is visiting Pakistan to sort out the details. The Saudis, it is reported, have also put pressure on Pakistan and promised financial help or Pakistan in return for “lending” their troops to put down the popular uprising in Bahrain. It is also being argued that there are more than 30, 000 Pakistani workers in Bahrain and it is, therefore, in Pakistan’s interest to stabilize the regime there.
Yes, we know Pakistani economy is in trouble and we know Pakistan relies heavily on Saudi aid, but does that mean Pakistan’s army is available to rent for all non-democratic, non-representative, authoritarian regimes in the Middle East? The people of Bahrain have risen against their government: it is their right to do so. They are asking for equality, nondiscrimination, and equal rights for the Shia majority: that is their right, too.
The entire Middle East is in a democratic furor; we should not be the people who stand against this tide. Our army should not side with the tyrants and dictators and if they do so then it would be a sad and shame-filled episode in the history of Pakistan. We cannot even plead that the army has no say in the matter: they always have a say in political matters. If the Pakistan army deploys to Bahrain, it means the army leadership went along with the government’s decision, for they do not have a spectacular history of following the mandates of popularly elected governments if the don’t want to.
This is where the media and people of Pakistan must assert themselves: we must insist that our army shall not become a mercenary force deployed to support the petty dictators in the Middle East. No honorable military force will accept such a mission, nor would a democratically elected government, no matter what the size of the proverbial carrot offered by the Saudis, become a party to supporting dictatorship against the will of the people.
So, let us hope our leaders–military and civilian–will pause a little before committing Pakistan to the wrong and shameful side of history.