Editorial : Iranian protest Saturday, April 16, 2011

Surprise and concern were expressed recently when Pakistani citizens were killed in Bahrain, apparently by protesters against the ruling royal family. Their deaths are placed into a wider context as we learn that as many as 10,000 Pakistanis are serving with, or training, the armed forces of Bahrain. Retired members of our armed forces are being recruited at monthly salaries of up to 100,000 rupees. The struggle which is ongoing in Bahrain is also sectarian. The ruling family is Sunni while the majority of the population are Shia. Those retired service personnel being recruited here to serve in the Bahrain National Guard are predominantly Sunni as well, meaning that they will be deployed against Shia protesters.

Such is the concern felt by Iran – a state with a considerable interest in events unfolding in Bahrain as well as parts of Saudi Arabia – that Tehran has expressed its concern about the role of Pakistan, conveying its resentment in no uncertain terms to Islamabad. There are reports that our ambassador to Tehran had been summoned by the Iranian Foreign Ministry to be served a demarche, but when questioned about this by journalists on Thursday Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua made the slightly alarming admission that she had no idea what a ‘demarche’ is. Slightly alarming because a demarche is a formal diplomatic protest issued by one country to the representatives of another; and if Ms Janjua does not know what this is then we have to wonder at her competence to fill the office that she does. It would appear that we have chosen to ignore the Iranian protest, perhaps sparking a rift in our relations with Tehran. That we have chosen this course is also indicative of our role vis-à-vis countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain within the context of the upheavals in the Arab world. The signal is that we are supporting them as they have in the past supported us, with the quid-pro-quo being that mutual support in pursuit of mutual benefit will continue. There is no meaningful threat as yet to the regime in Saudi Arabia, and the monarchy would be keen to ensure that the status-quo remained undisturbed. We are thus seen as supporters of the Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, with possible consequences for ourselves if Iran chooses to react more strongly. Events in the Middle East may seem far away and of little consequence to us, but the reality is that they are very close to home, and could damage us in ways yet uncalculated.

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=41880&Cat=8

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