This puts Saudi Arabia in place – Analysis – Eurasia Review

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Sunni ultra-conservatism is having a blast.

Barely three months after the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the second most populous Muslim majority state, is preparing to join Kabul to become an outpost of religious intolerance and Muslim supremacy.

In doing so, Pakistan, alongside Afghanistan, has sided with countries like Turkey and Iran that advocate various forms of political Islam and public adherence to the faith, as opposed to states in the United States. Gulf and movements like the Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia which project themselves with varying degrees of sincerity as beacons of a tolerant and pluralist interpretation of the faith.

That hasn’t stopped Pakistan from forging ties with both sides of the divide. In doing so, Pakistan is taking advantage of changing battlegrounds in the Middle East as its rivals seek to ease tensions to prevent conflicts from spiraling out of control.

In the last move, Saudi Arabia re-launched its financial support to Pakistan, including $ 3 billion in central bank deposits and up to $ 1.5 billion in oil supplies with deferred payments. Saudi Arabia suspended aid last year over Pakistani criticism of the kingdom’s lack of support in its dispute with India over Kashmir.

However, the kingdom’s renewed support stems from a desire to counter the tightening of military and cultural relations between Pakistan and Turkey as well as Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban following the group’s victory in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is reportedly providing intelligence and technical support to the Taliban in their fight against the South Asian branch of the Islamic State, the Islamic State-Khorasan. Much of the international community is concerned about the Islamic State, but has been unwilling to engage publicly with the Taliban to counter the jihadist group.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Javid Ahmad, who was Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates until the Taliban takeover, suggested that Pakistan was well placed to do so because of “its tactical presence. in Taliban units, especially al Qaeda forces. Haqqani network linked.

Citing pre-Taliban Afghan intelligence, Ahmed said his Pakistani counterpart had an “elaborate network of human informants in major cities, involving local travel agencies, commercial banks, restaurants, hotels, bakeries and taxi drivers “.

Saudi Arabia’s renewed support challenges Saudi aspirations to lead the Muslim world in its adherence to tolerance and moderation. It came days after the Pakistani government bowed to demands from a supposedly banned ultra-conservative militant group that advocates the draconian implementation of an archaic blasphemy law.

Saudi Arabia competes for leadership in the Muslim world and the ability to define Islam in the 21st century with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Nahdlatul Ulama. The latter is the only non-state actor in the mix and the only entity to have taken concrete steps to anchor the principles of tolerance in Islamic jurisprudence.

The competition has particular significance for the kingdom which has led the world’s largest public diplomacy campaign for decades, investing some $ 100 billion globally to support the ultraconservative, anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian currents of the world. Islam. Pakistan’s history since the establishment of the state in 1947 positions it as the main achievement of the campaign designed to counter Iranian revolutionary Islam.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, since coming to power in 2015, has sought to distance the kingdom from its global support for ultra-conservatism by sharply cutting funding, liberalizing certain social mores at home and seeking to replace a Saudi identity steeped in religion. with one that emphasizes nationalism.

However, Prince Mohammed failed to put into practice his promotion of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue by failing to legalize non-Muslim worship and the construction of non-Muslim places of worship in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s renewed financial aid package makes Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan a temporary lifeline as he seeks to secure continued support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to his country’s struggling economy .

Stabilizing Pakistan’s finances and reforming its economy, however, are likely to prove an uphill battle without significantly improving the country’s education system and creating an environment that encourages creativity and freedom of thought. Mr. Khan’s recent moves appear to be designed to achieve the exact opposite.

The government’s backtracking this week on a deal with Islamist militants who threatened to storm the capital, resulting in violent clashes in which four police officers were killed and around 250 people injured, may have posed a temporary milestone, but the inclinations of the government are evident.

The initial deal gave victory to the allegedly banned far-right group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which leveraged its self-proclaimed position as a defender of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad to persuade repeatedly the government to meet its demands. The group is using the mass protests besieging Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, as a ram.

The religious mantle has turned the TLP into the Pakistani version of far-right populist movements and politicians in Europe and elsewhere. The “TLP presented this call as an unassailable religious principle – but TLP’s white hot core is rage against elitesColumnist Mosharraf Zaidi tweeted. He added that the group’s support was “anchored in a real socio-economic attractiveness. “

During the latest government collapse, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed agreed to release members of the group, including those responsible for previous killings of law enforcement officials as well as its leader, from prison. Saad Rizvi, and unfreeze his bank accounts.

The only request the government rejected was for Pakistan to expel the French ambassador because of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in 2015 by a satirical magazine. Ahmed said the government would take the issue to parliament.

Activists attacked the magazine’s Paris offices in 2015 and killed 12 members of the publication’s staff. The Pakistani online edition of Saudi News from Saudi Arabia appeared to seek to undermine anger against France by reporting that French companies wanted to invest in Pakistani tourism infrastructure despite the country’s volatility.

“It is not the state’s job to use the stick,” Rashid said to justify the government’s initial surrender.

The government’s handling of the crisis, despite its turnaround, should not inspire confidence in its ability either to rule the Taliban in Afghanistan as Pakistan’s partners demanded, or to properly combat money laundering and corruption. financing of activism and political violence.

Pakistan has been on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog since 2018, because it did not meet the group’s standards.

As Mr. Khan’s government seeks to Islamize Pakistani education and establish a body to monitor curriculum, programs and social media for “blasphemous” content, columnist Zahid Hussain noted that “there appears to be have little difference between the religious extremism of the TLP and the government of the PTI. policy of encouraging religiosity ”, Mr. Hussain referred to Mr. Khan’s ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Mr. Hussain went on to warn that “the government’s appeasement policy has increased the terrorist threat to the country. Surrendering to terrorist groups will have very serious consequences for the security and stability of the country.

With the Taliban installed in Kabul, it is a day on the ground for the ultraconservatives whether they are jihadists or not.

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