This is apropos a Business Recorder op-ed “GCC power politics gone awry” carried by the newspaper yesterday. The writer, Saida Fazal has argued, among other things, “it is not known if Pakistan was asked to join the boycott of Qatar, but the ripples of the crisis surely reached Islamabad. Sensing Saudi expectations, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accompanied by his foreign policy advisers and – not without significance – Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Jeddah on Monday on what has been described as a mediatory mission. If it was a mediatory effort the delegation should have gone to Doha as well, but that did not happen. The purpose of the visit, apparently, was to explain that the government was in no position to take sides. The opposition parties would not allow any change in the country’s longstanding policy to stay neutral in intra-Muslim feuds. Following the meeting, the Prime Minister could only reaffirm the usual “strong commitment of the people and the government of Pakistan for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Kingdom”, which of course is under no threat.”
So, when we say we’re neutral, what do we mean? Being neutral in a Gulf feud or crisis isn’t always the right thing to do. One must not lose sight of the fact that it is not only Saudi Arabia that has severed ties with Qatar, the UAE, too, the home to a very large number of Pakistani expatriates, has cut relations with Doha. The workers’ remittances from these countries help keep our foreign exchange position afloat in a highly effective and meaningful manner. The government of Pakistan therefore cannot say that the Gulf diplomatic crisis is all about bilateral relations of the Gulf states and that Islamabad does not interfere in these decisions.