Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Imran’s Pakistan now braces up for UAE’s wrath; ISI hand alleged in 2017 Kandhar bombing

Imran Khan’s Pakistan ostensibly has never seen a bigger plunge in relationship vis-à-vis United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it’s today. And that’s because Abu Dhabi has unearthed the plot that the Haqqani network and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved in the 2017 Kandhar bombing in which five UAE diplomats had lost their lives. As is known, Islamabad had then blamed Iran for the tragedy.

UAE investigations in the Kandhar incident have concluded that Pakistan-backed Haqqani network, which it used as a strategic asset, was involved. Besides, they have also found that ISI was hand in glove with those who carried out the attack. All these things may have complicated the relationship between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan.

Officially, UAE has not initiated any deportation moves against Pakistani expatriates. However, it is being said that many Pakistanis are facing difficulties in getting their resident permits renewed. Besides thousands of Pakistanis are employed in UAE and contribute valuable foreign exchange back home. It won’t come as a surprise if the UAE was to impose tight vis formalities and discourage Pakistanis seeking jobs in near future.

The downturn in the ties between the two sides started after UAE signed a deal with Israel in mid-August, barely three months ago. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had criticised the US-brokered deal in which Donald Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner was involved.

One fallout of the deterioration in UAE-Pakistan ties has been the arrests of several pro-Palestine Pakistanis. Some estimates put the number of Pakistani prisoners in one UAE jail alone at approximately 5,000. Many of these arrests were made for minor crimes, which were often ignored by UAE law enforcement authorities earlier.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Abu Dhabi, Ghulam Dastgir, had recently met important UAE leaders. However, his explanations were ignored and he could not get the response that could have helped Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s acid comments on UAE-Israel deal caused resentment in Saudi Arabia also which has been one major benefactor of Pakistan in the past. After the deal, Saudi Arabia had opened its airspace for Israeli flights. He thus managed to alienate two very powerful Arabian nations in one go and that can put it deeper into financial trouble.

Pakistan wanted to organise “Kashmir Black Day” (on October 27) but the Saudi Arabia told its embassy in Riyadh not to hold any such public event. Some months ago, Pakistan wanted Organisation of Islamic Nations (OIC) to take lead in holding an anti-India event on Kashmir issue. As OIC leader, Riyadh thwarted those attempts also.

Saudi Arabia sees itself as undisputed leader of the Islamic world and has invested considerable money in attaining that status. However, Pakistan has tried to undermine that position by being part of an alliance with Turkey, considered a rival by the Saudis. A new nexus may be emerging in the Islamic world due to coming together of Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan.

In fact, Saudi Arabia had demanded that Pakistan repay its loans immediately. Islamabad then took a loan from China to return $1 billion back to Saudi. Some harsh comments on Riyadh by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had triggered things then.

Pakistan economy is in dire straits for long and was being sustained on grants and loans from friendly nations. Saudi Arabia, UAE and the US have pumped millions of dollars into Pakistan to keep its economy afloat artificially. Progressives, these nations are withdrawing their aid and that is only worsening the situation for Pakistan.

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