Capital suggestion - Dr Farrukh Saleem - Sunday, April 10, 2011

Point Number 1: Arab monarchs are up against an unprecedented wave of national uprising.

Point Number 2: The interests of the United States of America and that of Arab monarchs will be best served by maintaining the status quo.

Point Number 3: Arab armies are either incapable or unwilling to suppress uprisings.

Point Number 4: The US Army is overstretched.

Now consider this brief timeline of events:

February 25: President Zardari meets the emir of Kuwait.

February 26: President Zardari meets Prince Nayef, the second deputy prime minister of Al Mamlakah al Arabiyah as Suudiyah.

March 8: Commander royal Saudi land forces meets our chief of army staff.

March 26: Prince Bandar, secretary-general of Saudi Arabia’s National Security Council, arrives in Islamabad.

March 29: Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, arrives in Islamabad.

April 5: The Right Honourable David Cameron arrives in Islamabad.

April 6: Robert Gates arrives in Riyadh.

April 7: General Mattis, commander of United States Central Command, meets General Kayani, COAS.

Undoubtedly, a window of Pak Army’s ‘strategic utility’ is opening up – yet once again. Here’s our current order of battle: I Corps’ 37th Infantry Division is already in Swat. II Corps’ 14th and 40th Divisions are in Okara while the 1st Armoured Division is in Multan. IV Corps’ 10th and 11th Divisions are both in Lahore. V Corps is headquartered in Karachi. X Corps 19th Infantry Division is in Northern Swat and its 111 Infantry Brigade is focused on Islamabad. XI Corps is in Waziristan, XII in Quetta, XXX in Sialkot and XXXI in Bahawalpur. In effect, Pak Army has no ‘strategic surplus’. How about raising a new corps with Saudi and American input?

Back to the Middle East, the three powers that are trying to contain Iran are: the United States of America, Saudi Arabia and Medinat Yisra’el (Israel). At the same time, the House of Saud, backed by the American war machine, is now the biggest defender of status quo in the Middle East – the ultimate counterrevolutionaries.

Here are the pros and cons of Pakistan’s involvement in the Middle East:

Pros: One; additional leverage over the US. Two; leverage over Saudi Arabia. Three; increased military aid. Four; advanced weapons systems. Five; oil on deferred payment basis.

Cons: One; Pakistani workers in the Middle East may face threats. Two; expatriate remittances may be affected adversely. Three; Iran-instigated trouble in Balochistan. Four; potential of trouble from domestic shia population. Five; more trouble in the AfPak region.

Pakistani decision makers must stay ahead of the curve. To be certain, every Pakistani decision – to get involved or not in the Middle East – will have a cost associated with it. Over in Manama, 1,444 km west of Rawalpindi, the defenders of status quo seem to be winning – for now. Can there be a military solution to a political problem? Is it the lull before the real storm? Congratulations; Round 1 goes to counterrevolutionaries!

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email:

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