Side-effect - Harris Khalique - Friday, March 25, 2011

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The plastic cities of the monarchies and oligarchies of the Middle East are being threatened by the stemming of frail, green saplings of organic resistance. The ruling dynasties want to root out this growth at once so that a new oasis of human dignity, democratic values and social change could never appear in the Arab desert.

People are clamouring for political change across Maghreb and the Middle East. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, all are in the midst of unprecedented tensions in their history. Other governing families and classes in the region are both angry and nervous. Saudis on the one hand are trying to dole out money to their populace to keep them calm and have announced local body polls to create an illusion of participation in decision making among the citizenry. On the other hand, they have sent armed men to support the royal family and suppress the uprising in Bahrain.

The world watches. While rulers of influential countries are calculating their interests and accordingly weighing up options to interfere or stay back, civil society in these very countries is desperate to see democratic changes come about quick for their fellow global citizens. Until now, the western powers, led by the US, are selective. This is quite usual though. While we see them pounding bombs on Qaddafi’s bases, Saudi intervention in Bahrain, exactly contrary to what the west stands for in Libya, continues unabated.

The reasons are far too simple. In the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia played out in Bahrain, the US will side with the Saudis. Iran is a theocratic democracy, marginally better than Saudi Arabia in terms of a cleric-controlled representative government but defying the policies of the US. Saudi Arabia is a theocratic kingdom but a close collaborator and a joint custodian of US interests in the wider region with Israel.

Although the Saudis do not recognise the Jewish state, they are hand in glove with their biggest sponsor when it comes to shared strategic interests. Americans get a rich ally who could foot its own bills and also of Americans at times like in the first Iraq war, and Saudis get what an unrepresented regime desperately needs, international political influence and military support.

For whatever it’s worth, some Pakistani commentators including this scribe continue to ask of our civil and military establishment to revisit their old security paradigm and foreign policy imperatives in the country’s interest.

But this is something that the US establishment does not wish to understand either, to better appreciate the emerging changes in global human society. They forget that supporting unrepresentative regimes of their liking in the developing countries including the Muslim world may have served their short-term interests but has tarnished their image among the large numbers of global population. How could you press for the inclusion of people belonging to different schools of thought in the political process in Iran and turn a blind eye towards your allies?

The US forgets that movements rooted in resistance to the monarchies and dictatorships in Arab and Muslim countries turn their wrath towards the west due to its unrelenting support to these regimes. American policy continues to lack depth.

Lastly, I am eager to put a couple of questions to Munawwar Hasan of Jamaat-e-Islami and Imran Khan of Tehreek-e-Insaf, the renewed champions of Pakistan’s national honour and global Muslim pride. Do the citizens of all Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia have a right to democracy? What is your immediate reaction to Saudi military moving into Bahrain?

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.

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