Much has been written about how China through its debt trap diplomacy will eventually end up making Pakistan as its latest colony. However, well before China entered the picture in Pakistan, it was the Arab world who used to babysit Pakistan as the latter has always been a huge borrower thanks to its ailing economy and rampant corruption. The Arab world still has significant control in Pakistan but it seems that the Arab countries have had it enough and are looking to abandon and destroy Pakistan as the latter’s repeated insistence for the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to take an anti-India stance on Kashmir has made Pakistan an irritant which must be removed at all costs.
All was hunky-dory between the Arab countries and Pakistan before Imran Khan assumed the reigns of Pakistan. Such is the influence of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan, that Imran Khan personally chauffeured Prince Mohammad Bin Salman during the latter’s visit to Pakistan back in February 2019. During the visit, Saudi Arabia signed a $6.2 billion package which included a total of $3 billion in loans and an oil credit facility amounting to $3.2 billion. Little did Pakistan know that this package will end up costing Pakistan dearly.
Despite the China made pandemic and its devastating after effect on the global economy, Saudi Arabia made Pakistan payback $1 billion of the loan granted way back in October 2018, four months ahead of its repayment period, with the country also stopping oil shipments to Pakistan on deferred payments as the deal for provision of US $3.2 billion worth of the fuel under the arrangement expired two months ago. Comically, Pakistan took a $1 billion loan from China to payback Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has formally requested to extend the arrangement, but have so far received a cold response from the Saudis.
The fact that Saudi Arabia has rolled over its $3 billion loan from between November 2019 and January 2020 will further deplete the debt sustainability of Pakistan according to the International Monetary Fund.
Pakistan is paying the price for the sheer incompetence of the Imran Khan government as its poor foreign policy has managed to rile up Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In a childish move, last week, Pakistan Foreign Minister blackmailed the OIC who’s chair is led by Saudi Arabia as during an interview gave an ultimatum to Saudi Arabia, saying that Pakistan will have to look for other options if the OIC doesn’t come forward in support of its stance on Kashmir.
“I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris,” said Qureshi in a TV interview.
Qureshi software updated. Two days later, he sounds little sombre on Saudi Arabia, is filled with gratitude and also suggests Pakistan returned $1billion to help Saudi economy. 🤭 pic.twitter.com/deyQvKsZPU
— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) August 7, 2020
Qureshi further exclaimed that OIC- led by Saudi Arabia should decide if it wants to stand with Pakistan on such a sensitive issue, as Pakistan will not wait for Saudi Arabia’s support anymore. Soon after the video made headlines, the Pakistani channel removed Qureshi’s statements on Saudi Arabia but the damage to the Imran Khan government was already done.
In return to Qureshi’s rather absurd statements, the Imran Khan government sensed an impending Saudi retaliation and has moved quickly to scrub the footage of Qureshi threatening the Saudis off the internet.
Pakistan’s efforts to internationalise the issue of Kashmir have seen a huge blow as Saudi Arabia, the de-facto leader of the Muslim world has been steadfast in its stance that the Kashmir issue is India’s internal matter and consequently deferred Pakistan’s plans in OIC.
It is no more a hidden fact that like a chameleon, Pakistan keeps changing its colours and sides with anyone who can grant them a few billion dollars in a loan or help them internationalise the issue of Kashmir. The Imran Khan dispensation thoughtlessly assumed that Turkey President who has now become a dictator will become the new Khalifa of the Muslim world and hence sided with Turkey despite Saudi’s concerns.
Even at a virtual meeting of the OIC in May earlier this year, Pakistan had undertaken a campaign, unsuccessfully, to set up an informal anti-India working group within the OIC, to probe the ‘supposed’ Islamophobia rising in India.
Reports had then suggested that at the behest of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman— Maldives had thrashed the radical Islamist state left, right and centre for its brazen attempts of using the OIC as a platform to single out India and push its dirty agenda forward.
India’s close ally Maldives thwarted the move and stated, “Isolated statements by motivated people and disinformation campaigns on social media should not be construed as representative of the feelings of 1.3 billion.” Maldives Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Thilmeeza Hussain, said, “It would be detrimental to the religious harmony in the South Asian region. Islam has existed in India for centuries and it is the second-largest religion in India, with 14.2 per cent of the country’s population.”
Further, Oman also took a clear stand-in India’s favour at the OIC, saying that the discourse trying to be initiated at the OIC was a part of India’s internal affairs. UAE, while rejecting Pakistan’s demand, stated that forming of any new working group will only happen after it has been approved by all the foreign ministers of OIC member countries.
A distraught Imran Khan lamented, “The reason is that we have no voice and there is a total division amongst (us). We cannot even come together as a whole on the OIC meeting on Kashmir.”
The unkindly response from the Arab world further pushed Pakistan onto Turkey’s lap. From the American masters to Arab masters to Chinese masters and now Turkish masters, the identity crisis of Pakistan is phenomenal and a case-study on point.
The incessant push for the OIC to discuss Kashmir and the blackmailing by Pakistan to proclaim Turkey and Erdogan as the leader of Caliph means that the Arab world has had enough of Pakistan’s antics and is looking to cut ties with its once traditional ally.
Pakistan has unsurprisingly borrowed more than it can chew and expected that Saudi Arabia won’t ask them to repay the loan. There was a reason why as soon as the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic hit the world, Imran Khan was crying on a regular basis to allow debt waivers for poor countries like Pakistan.
Perhaps, Imran Khan chauffeured Prince Salman with the belief that his driving skills will make Saudi forget about the repayment of the billion dollar loans granted to Pakistan. However, not only has Saudi made Pakistan repay a part of loan during the pandemic but also four months ahead of its scheduled repayment.
This development will further plunge into the Chinese debt trap as Pakistan is borrowing from China to payback Saudi Arabia. Make no mistake, the repayment has come due to Imran Khan’s antics as public criticism of the OIC and Saudi Arabia has rubbed the latter the wrong way. Qureshi’s threats and especially the tone in the interview where he blackmails Saudi Arabia has prompted Riyadh to teach Pakistan a lesson which will end up completely destroying the latter’s economy.
Saudi Arabia has now stopped the supply of oil to the country since May after the expiration of the deferred payment deal.
The Express Tribune reported that the $3.2 billion Saudi oil facility was a part of the USD 6.2-billion Saudi Arabian package announced in November 2018 to ease Pakistan’s external sector woes. Pakistan is trying to renew the facility but the Saudis are yet to respond to Pakistan’s request.
From being the patrons of Pakistan, consistently bailing out the country in the times of need to now becoming a foe determined to punish Pakistan, the Arab world has come a full circle thanks to Imran Khan’s diplomacy.
The warning bells were right there since last year as Imran Khan took determined steps to make Pakistan a lapdog of Turkey. Earlier this year, Pakistanis jumped to defend Turkey on Twitter against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the two countries were engaged in diplomatic crosshairs. Expectedly, Pakistan ended up making a laughing stock of it as the Pakistanis trended #boycottUAE on Pakistani Twitter seeking to severe relations with the UAE. The keyboard warriors forgot that Pakistan owed UAE a mammoth $30 billion.
Under Mahathir Mohamad, relations had peaked between Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia, which were quite literally on the verge of announcing an anti-India alliance/axis, consisting of other smaller Islamic nations as well. However, with India choking the Malaysian economy, Mahathir kicked himself out of his office. Ever since Malaysia, under its current PM Muhyiddin has distanced itself from Pakistan and Turkey, the to-be grand axis, as such, has fallen even before inception.
Mahathir had organized the Islamic Summit in Malaysia last year, which Pakistan pulled out of in the very last moment, facing severe pressure from Saudi Arabia not to attend the same. Mahathir was trying to cook up a non-Saudi, non-UAE grand Islamic alliance, of which Turkey was a wholehearted partner.
During the summit which excluded the likes of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, Erdogan was quoted saying that it was ‘unfortunate’ that Saudi Arabia ‘pressures‘ Pakistan. Erdogan insinuated that the Saudis had threatened to withdraw the loan from Pakistan’s Central bank and replace four million Pakistanis working in Saudi with Bangladeshi workers, thereby prompting Imran Khan to cancel his trip last minute.
What led to this extreme isolation of Pakistan in an Islamic organization? The simple answer would be its growing proximity with another rabidly Islamist state, called Turkey. Turkey, under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has grown extremely warm relations with Pakistan in recent times, much to the dismay of Arab and Gulf nations, particularly the global Islamic hegemony – Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan is hurtling towards Turkey at a break taking speed as earlier this year; Turkey offered to extend its citizenship to Pakistani nationals. A plan to work out dual citizenship is also under process, which will facilitate the people from Turkey to take up Pakistani citizenship, and Pakistanis to take up Turkish citizenship.
After last year’s United Nations General Assembly session, Imran Khan took to Twitter to reveal, “President Erdogan, PM Mahatir and I had a meeting today in which we decided our 3 countries would jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record straight on our great religion – Islam.”
Such a move directly challenged the status of Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Muslim world and the Saudis didn’t take this move lightly and decided to humiliate Imran Khan. Pakistani media had reported that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was so miffed with Imran Khan’s actions on the sidelines of the UNGA session that he ordered his “private jet to disembowel the Pakistani delegation” as a consequence, thereby forcing Imran Khan to return to Pakistan on a commercial flight.
During last year’s summit of the OIC, India scored a major diplomatic win as it downgrade the level of participation for the meeting that could take place to discuss the issue of Kashmir.
The OIC irritated by Pakistan’s constant whining on Kashmir agreed to have the meeting on Foreign Ministers’ level but after India’s intervention decided that only parliamentarians of member nations would participate at the meeting. Not so long ago, the OIC hosted then External Affairs Minister Late Sushma Swaraj as chief guest at the their summit.
It seems that the Arab world understands India’s importance and don’t wanna rake up Kashmir and considers it as India’s internal matter. In 2019, the UAE had honoured Prime Minister Modi with the ‘Order of Zayed’ — the country’s highest civilian award. Similarly, in 2016, Saudi Arabia had awarded PM Modi the King Abdulaziz Sash Award with Bahrain also honouring India’s Prime Minister with the King Hamad Order of the Renaissance last year.
In fact, PM Modi in 2018, had laid the foundation stone of the first Hindu temple in UAE.
Imran Khan despite knowing the fact that around 1.5 million Pakistanis reside and work in the UAE, has rubbed the country the wrong way. Pakistan earns billions of dollars through remittances – money from migrant workers overseas sent back to family members and friends. Pakistan receives a whopping $4.6 billion in remittances from the UAE alone. According to the World Bank, the remittances are likely to drop by 20% this year as the workers are being laid off in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
Pakistan received approximately $5.4 billion as remittances from Saudi Arabia as last year, over 87% of Pakistanis seeking jobs abroad went to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
Only a complete fool like Imran Khan can afford to rile up its traditional allies who have regularly helped Pakistan in its time of crisis. It seems that the Arab world is done with Pakistan and if the UAE takes a cue from Saudi Arabia and makes Pakistan pay back its loans, it is inevitable that Pakistan will cease to exist as a sovereign country as the bankrupt nation will yet again borrow from China to keep the country afloat.