Editorial : Bahrain unrest - Thursday, March 17, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/17/bahrain-unrest.html

AS the Arab movement for change shows no sign of abating, all eyes seem to be fixed on the small Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. The island has been rocked by nearly continuous anti-government protests — some deadly — for the last month or so. Bahraini security forces uprooted a protest camp at Pearl Square — Manama’s answer to Cairo’s Tahrir Square — on Wednesday in which several protesters were reportedly killed as the king declared a three-month state of emergency a day earlier. At least one Pakistani was also repor-tedly killed in violence earlier in the week. But the arrival of a Gulf Cooperation Council military contingent on Monday threatens to escalate tensions. As nearly 2,000 Saudi and Emirati troops rumbled down the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, the move attracted criticism from within Bahrain as well as from the region, with the Bahraini opposition calling the foreign troops an “occupation force”. While the six GCC states — under a common security framework — can call in the Peninsula Shield when a member state is threatened by military aggression, this is the first time the force has been deployed to deal with internal unrest.
What is happening in Bahrain is purely a domestic issue. The opposition, mainly made up of a dis-enfranchised Shia majo-rity, is dissatisfied with the way in which the Sunni royal family is running the country and wants representative government as well as to secure the social, political and economic rights of the majority. Hence foreign military intervention, even within the framework of the GCC, is a questionable solution to the problem. It risks internationalising a local issue and should Iran get involved (it has denounced the intervention), the conflict is likely to stir up sectarian passions across the Muslim world. Interestingly, many Arab governments have denounced Muammar Qadhafi’s brutal suppression of the Libyan opposition, while the international community has mooted the idea of a ‘no-fly zone’ over the North African country. Yet the silence over Bahrain is deafening, where Arab and most Muslim governments, as well as the US, seem to be rallying behind the Bahraini regime. Pakistan’s religious parties are also conspicuous by their silence.

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