File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Facebook/ImranKhan
File photo of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Facebook/ImranKhan
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Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is set to visit Saudi Arabia in an effort to end the recent tiff between the partner countries. Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had brought disagreements between Riyadh and Islamabad out in the open by issuing an ultimatum demanding the Saudis call a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on the Kashmir issue.

Pakistan has been dependent on Saudi Arabia for years, seeking economic bailouts and jobs for unskilled workers whose remittances help Islamabad’s perennial balance of payments difficulties. But now, miffed Saudis are asking for the immediate return of short-term loans and have dragged their feet over completing an oil deal that ensures flow of oil to Pakistan on concessional terms.

General Bajwa’s intervention to stop the drift in ties affirms the realisation that Pakistan simply can’t afford to alienate the Saudis. Why, then, did Qureshi engage in anti-Saudi rhetoric that was unsustainable? To understand that requires an examination of the overly simplistic populism of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his backers, and the fantasy of many Pakistanis about an altered global order, with Pakistan at its centre.


Also read: What’s Pakistan without Saudi loan, oil and free royal jet rides for Imran Khan?


Another Great Game

For decades, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, retired Pakistani generals and civilian writers on strategic issues have spoken about a ‘new Great Game’ in South and Central Asia that would make Pakistan a geopolitical ‘pivot’.

This was an adaptation of British geographer Halford Mackinder’s heartland theory, submitted in 1904 when Pakistan did not exist, the United States was not yet a superpower, and airpower or the military applications of satellite and cyber technologies could not be imagined.

Pakistan’s pre-9/11 involvement in Afghanistan, its support for jihadi militants as an instrument of asymmetric warfare, and its close ties with China were all explained as part of the grand strategy to capitalise on Pakistan’s strategic location and make it a bigger player on the world stage.

Some Americans dismissed it as ‘a grand illusion’, especially in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, which forced Pakistan to seek an alliance with the United States once again. But the theory of Pakistan’s inevitable greatness, notwithstanding its economic problems and its constant dependence on outside powers, has persisted among Pakistanis.


Also read: Imran Khan is binge-watching Ertuğrul during Covid, recommending Turkish shows to Pakistanis


Pakistan at the centre

The impending withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, the prospect of a return to power of the Taliban, and the commitment of an economically stronger China, have all played a role in cementing the view that Pakistan would emerge as a key player in a new global order.

According to this outlook, Pakistan benefits from the impending decline of the United States and the rise of China as a global superpower. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) might add to Pakistan’s debt but it also attaches Pakistan and China at the hip. And the two countries share hostility towards India, a country the US and other Western nations see as an ally in their imminent confrontation with an aggressive, totalitarian China.

Believers in Pakistan’s inevitable strategic salience expect that after Afghanistan, the US will also withdraw gradually from the Middle East. In their imagination, Pakistan would then be China’s link to the Middle East, making it Beijing’s go-to satrap in tapping Middle East oil and securing Gulf shipping lanes.

The hope is that Pakistan can then fulfil its old dreams of exercising paramountcy over Afghanistan, resolving disputes with India (including Kashmir) on its terms, and finding its rightful place as the Muslim world’s natural leader and sole nuclear weapons power.

Such fanciful thinking is championed by several influential voices, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and his followers. Their allies in Pakistan’s deep state and permanent establishment see value in these ideas for building a more positive national narrative. But they are probably a little more pragmatic in understanding the gap between hopes and reality.


Also read: Qureshi’s Saudi criticism on Kashmir hints shift in Pakistan’s strategy for the Islamic world


A new Ertugrul

These days, Pakistan’s television commentators frequently talk about the country’s forthcoming grand role in a China-Russia-Turkey-Iran-Pakistan alliance that is destined to defeat the US-Israel-India partnership. Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan has encouraged discussions about this five-country alliance, ignoring the various issues that might hinder cooperation among this diverse grouping.

It is not unusual to read in a Pakistani newspaper about the post-Covid world order that would be based on the dreams of Pakistani Islamo-nationalists.

The rhetoric in Pakistan is not dissimilar to the neo-Ottoman bombast of Turkey’s Islamist President, Recip Tayyip Erdogan, which ignores Turkey’s currently weak economic prospects.

Imran Khan is a huge Erdogan fan and purveys pan-Islamism as the panacea, not only for Pakistan but for the entire ummah.

Pakistan has long embraced pan-Islamism, but it was more a device to address the identity crisis of a nation that was carved out only 73 years ago and conceived just shortly before that. Most Pakistani leaders understood the limits of Islamic unity and allied with the West for economic and security reasons. But Imran Khan seems to believe his own rhetoric.

The cricketer-turned-politician has encouraged Pakistanis to watch a Turkish drama serial Ertugrul, supposedly based on the life of the father of the Ottoman dynasty’s founder, Osman.

Historic records about Ertugrul are scant but the show’s producers and story writers have stretched the few sketchy historic references into a 150-episode period drama.

The show portrays its hero as a great Muslim warrior who overcomes external enemies and domestic traitors to emerge victorious in an early phase of what Erdogan once described as the ongoing “struggle between the crescent and the cross.”

It seems that Imran Khan shares Erdogan’s vision, with the additional twist of putting Pakistan in a more important role in bringing down the West in addition to winning its own battles against Hindu India.


Also read: Oil to Kashmir — Why China, not Saudi Arabia, is Pakistan’s only Big Brother now


A make-believe world

No one should be fooled by Imran Khan’s external Westernisation to think that his description in parliament of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a ‘martyr’ was a slip of tongue. It reflects a worldview that has significant support among Pakistanis.

In this backdrop, Imran Khan and his followers do not see Saudi Arabia’s current leader crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as an ally in their Islamist Neo-Ottoman fantasy world, which they hope to create with China’s help.

The Saudis now oppose the Islamist ‘Muslim Brotherhood’, maintain good relations with India, and are not willing to engage in knee-jerk opposition of Israel. That upsets Imran Khan as much as it offends Erdogan.

Khan engaged with the Kingdom because of Pakistan’s transactional needs, just as he temporarily took off his anti-American cloak to befriend President Donald Trump. But in his heart, and that of most of his supporters, lies the desire for a make-believe global order in which China dominates the world but allows Muslims to remain ascendant in their heartland.

The Uyghurs of China may have a thing or two to teach Pakistan’s armchair jihadis about China’s tolerance for Islam and Muslims. But for now, Khan’s eyes are closed and his foreign minister’s grandiloquence at its peak.

Meanwhile, reality requires that General Bajwa continue to engage in damage control missions like the one he is undertaking to Riyadh now.

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His books include ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military,’ ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t we be Friends’ and ‘Reimagining Pakistan.’ Views are personal.

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44 Comments Share Your Views

44 COMMENTS

  1. The article is outdated, and looks at the world through an Old and crumbling cold war Lens. The world is changing and for Pakistan its for the better, this idea of alliances built solely on zero sum games needs to STOP. China itself has established deep relations now with the Saudis, Pakistan on the contrary enjoys a good relationship with Saudi Arabia, to say Saudis are establishing good relations with India only because the relations with Pakistan have declined is looking at the past for analysis. Truth is now, with China’s vision, TRADE not Alliances will decide the world order. The sooner India falls in line with this system and joins the digital and physical Silk road, the better. This does not have to be a Zero Sum game for countries, Pakistan does not have the economic might to lead the Muslim world, its not just Nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s cornerstone has always been the effort to try and establish a balance between the Arabs and the non Arabs in the Muslim world, we have always walked a tight rope. The world is establishing new alliances and till these alliances are final, it will always look like one country has ditched the other, we are watching the decline of US power in relative terms and are watching China muscle into the Gap, it will not be a smooth ride for sure, till, the balance between both countries is established, after that lets hope Chinas vision of TRADE not WAR comes true with India as a member.

  2. Though Haqqani is a biased writer, usually on the pay roll of CIA and RAW but here i will agree with him that Pakistan really pictures itself as the center in south asia as well as a very important country in muslim world. Esp now that Taliban have won against US and indian investment and hopes for a pro indian govt in afghanistan are dashed to the ground. A few clashes in south china sea and probably on india china boarder will deminish US influence further in asia, ensuring a strong block of russia china iran pakistan and turkey. Most of south asian countries rely on china for economic grouth now, most of them have discarded bussiness in dollers and are using their own currencies. India seems to have lost its neighbours and is engaged in internal communial struggles along with Kashmir. It will provide opportunity to pakistan to get closer to its neighbours with taliban in power in afghanistan and oil deals on CPEC rout through gawadar to Pakistan and China from iran. If the game remained unchanged, Pakistan might emerge as a beneficiary.

  3. Religion is for individuals, they need to believe in something ‘big’, the belief system.
    If countries were to disassociate religion, the world would be a better place. This goes to the West, Middle east, Asians et. al.
    More than laying down the nuclear arsenal, if countries put down religion and focus on development, This would be nirvana.
    Imagine the Shia-Sunni, Christian-Muslim, Hindu-Muslim, ….. tussles would be put to rest.
    It is said, all religions preach peace, if that were so, why do we have all these troubles across the globe and within each country.

    • The fact of the matter is that Islam/Quran is an open declaration of war against all unbelievers. It is a myth that everyone can live together without Enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong الأمر بالمَعْرُوف والنَهي عن المُنْكَر‎ Amr-Bil Maruf refers to encouraging people to do what is good. Maruf is anything that has been approved in Shari’ah law. Nahi Anil Munkar means forbidding evil by discouraging & stopping people from doing what is wrong. Capitalism has increased the gap between rich & poor; The capitalists’ crooks are willing to be foot soldiers of Satan they know this for centuries and they wittingly worship Satan & idols & service in the name their Idols. Lord Almighty will bring his judgment against them in the way of worldly punishment for offenders & their progeny who love so much & hoard for them, God will punish the offenders through their Love ones.

      • Some Muslims are peaceful, but the ideology is not peaceful.

        90% of terrorist acts are by Muslims, see List of terrorist incidents –

        , at 20% Muslims in the world population.

        That is 1:50 ratio of Muslims to non-Muslim, and do not tell me about “a tiny radical minority”. How come the other religions have no such minority? Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Animism?

        It has Sharia Law:

        • Theft is punishable by amputation of the hands (Quran 5:38

        ).
        • Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran
        is punishable by death.
        • Criticizing Muhammad
        or denying that he is a prophet is punishable by death.
        • Criticizing or denying Allah is punishable by death (see Allah moon god
        ).
        • A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death (See Compulsion
        ).
        • A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.
        • A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.
        • A woman or girl who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).
        • Testimonies of 4 male witnesses are required to prove rape of a female (Quran 24:13
        ).
        • A woman or girl who alleges rape without producing 4 male witnesses is guilty of adultery.
        • A woman or girl found guilty of adultery is punishable by death (see “Islamophobia
        “).
        • A male convicted of rape can have his conviction dismissed by marrying his victim.
        • Muslim men have sexual rights to any woman/girl not wearing the Hijab
        (see Taharrush
        ).
        • A woman can have 1 husband, who can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad
        can have more.
        • A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old
        .
        • Girls’ clitoris should be cut (Muhammad
        ‘s words, Book 41, Kitab Al-Adab, Hadith 5251).
        • A man can beat his wife for insubordination (see Quran 4:34
        and Religion of Peace
        ).
        • A man can unilaterally divorce his wife; a wife needs her husband’s consent to divorce.
        • A divorced wife loses custody of all children over 6 years of age or when they exceed it.
        • A woman’s testimony in court, allowed in property cases, carries ½ the weight of a man’s.
        • A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits
        • A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.
        • Meat to eat must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah – i.e., be “Halal
        .”
        • Muslims should engage in Taqiyya

        and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.

        It has a warlike political ideology:

        Al-Qur’an al-Kareem – القرآن الكريم

        is an official Muslim site for Muslims approved by Saudi Grand Mufti. What do we find in Quran?

        Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the accuracy of the following translation from Arabic, all complaints are deflected to that site.

        2:161 Verily, those who disbelieve, and die while they are disbelievers, it is they on whom is the Curse of Allah and of the angels and of mankind, combined.

        2:162 They will abide therein, their punishment will neither be lightened nor will they be reprieved.

        4:48 “Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him in worship, and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin.”

        4:76 “Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the Cause of Idols (Taghut). So fight you against the friends of Satan [Hindus & Buddhists]; ever feeble indeed is the guile of Satan.”

        8:39 “And fight them [the unbelievers] until there is no more disbelief (fitnah), and the religion will all be for Allah Alone

        8:55 Verily, the worst of living creatures before Allah are those who disbelieve.

        33:64 Verily Allah has cursed the Unbelievers and prepared for them a Blazing Fire

        47:3 That is because those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord.

        3:151. We will throw terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, because they attribute to God partners for which He revealed no sanction. Their lodging is the Fire. Miserable is the lodging of the evildoers.

        48:29. Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Those with him are stern against the disbelievers, yet compassionate amongst themselves. […]

        98:6. Those who disbelieve among the People of the Scripture, and the Polytheists, will be in the Fire of Hell, where they will abide forever. These are the worst of creatures.

        33:59 O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.

        8: 59. Let not the disbelievers assume that they are ahead. They will not escape.

        8:60. And prepare against them all the power you can muster, and all the cavalry you can mobilize, to terrify thereby God’s enemies and your enemies, and others besides them whom you do not know, but God knows them. Whatever you spend in God’s way will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged.

        9:29. Fight those who do not believe in God, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, nor abide by the religion of truth—from among those who received the Scripture—until they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly.

        Islam spread from the very beginning by war, not by the word ( unlike Christianity). It was made to wage war and was used for war:

        The reasons why the Left suppress these facts is that Marxism denies the importance of religion and culture focusing instead on the economic class struggle.

  4. Right on point my man. Well said. Of course he will not say that. Those are his master’s partner, Just like India. Gotta keep the master happy.

  5. Fistly India should leave islamiphobia and solve the problems with the close neighbour and increase business relation with them instead of counter China on behalf of USA in laddakh, India can control the middle East the south east and Africa with its own Natural resources and man power without the help of US and let US fight China directly without using India in between .

  6. The non-believer Godless community without moral grounds incites, whines, exaggerates, and is hell-bent to propagate moral corruption against the natural & biological truth, by hook or crook, will justify anything they want with the help of academic [trickery] argument. For example, the Unified Civil Code for India is a tool to further the hidden agendas against Islam. BJP fascist Modi Hindutva may scheme and gather all its troops. Lord God is the owner of Worlds He has decreed Islam will avail on earth. Even the none believer experts & adversaries of Islam think-tanks around the world believe Islam will avail. Being averse to the Truth you are in fact, wasting time & resources opposing the natural & biological factual reality. You are risking your own salvation and of your loved ones. God is Almighty owns the Worlds/ He manufactured human cognitive senses to test man, but people oppose the truth and they don’t understand?
    USA Fox news Islam adversary with 30-year experience journalist & President G Bush [associate] Glenn Beck- Who will lead the New World Order? Concluded; No matter what anybody says about Muslims, Islam will avail Glenn Beck forecasted a decade ago. https://youtube.com/watch?v=vPX4cmJ9JW8

    • Life is a complex interplay of various emotions and forces. Expecting utter discipline and idealism is both unnatural and evil, till Islam and Muslims fail to grasp this complexity…
      Muslims themselves will keep suffering with their own lives. And in the near future will be destroyed completely.

  7. While I’m no supporter of any side in this conflict, the sheer bias in this article was seems evident.

    Instead of the self-professed “objective and good” journalism mentioned in the somewhat manipulative message at the end asking for donations, all I see is emotionally charged rhetoric.

    This should be treated as a politically motivated column more than an “objective” source on good journalism.

    Why is it so hard to find anything about South Asian politics that isn’t fuelled by pro-BJP propaganda?

  8. Although, Saudis are slowly distancening themselves from the violent fundamentalist Islam, Turkey is trying to take her place. The present day rulers of Turkey are trying to attain the ambition of Ottoman Empire. Pakistan, under Imran see Turkey as new Idol of Islamic Brotherhood, to take on India. Pakistan’s dream of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey axis is a pure dream. For some immediate political reasons, Russia and China may be willing, although temporarily, but by the experience in Chechania and Muslim Ulghiars, they will never allow fundamental islamists to become too powerful to pose a threat to them. Which Pakistan overlooks in her hatred to rival India. Pakistanis see every change in international equations in the prism of their India centric views.

  9. It’s so easy to bad mouth any country when you don’t have the balls to actually be in it. Come back and face the justice you deserve, then we can talk about what’s wrong with Pakistani. People like him should be exiled.
    Pakistan will never become a colony of China in 15 years, and will most definitely never Lose its Islamic roots. If everyone truly cares about Muslims, they will support Pakistan in this endeavor rather then drag it down.

  10. why every one blames Pakistan always
    when saudi wants help Pakistan also do the same things why they forget if someone not agree read some history like 30 years before what they are

  11. why every one blames Pakistan always
    when saudi wants help Pakistan also do the same things why they forget if someone not agree read some history like 30 years before what they are

  12. Pakistan is suffering from delusions of grandeur. Since Pakistan is more than willing to be the stone in the hands of any other country which pays it in cash or kind, no other country can rely on it as a credible friend. America learnt it the hard way. China too will learn. So will other countries friendsly to Pakistan. But, as far as India is concerned, Pakistan will remain a thorn in its side.

  13. What a shitty a0rtical from traiterHussain Haqani. He run away from court cases against him in PPP govt. He wrote letters to his master Obama and CIA against Pak army. He was a US Spy as PAK ambassador in US for PAK nuclear secret. He get spaces for his anti Pak books, essays in Indian newspapers only. Shamless person, come back and clear your name from treason cases. Then ppl can take you seriously .

  14. Husain Haqqani has no knowledge of new Pakistan and he is wanted in Pakistani courts this column is full of his hate against Pakistan as usual he is a liar and always do yellow journalism.shame on you

  15. “The hope is that Pakistan can then fulfil its old dreams of exercising paramountcy over Afghanistan, resolving disputes with India (including Kashmir) on its terms, and finding its rightful place as the Muslim world’s natural leader and sole nuclear weapons power.

    Such fanciful thinking is championed by several influential voices, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and his followers.”

    And this website.

  16. By displeasing their Saudi masters Pakistan has bitten more than it can chew. Just recently they were at the Saudi gates begging for a bailout package which was graciously given to them— $3 billion and oil on deferred payments. Turkey may be instigating Pakistan against Saudi Arabia but when the push comes to shove economically such friends are the first to vanish. Pakistan, which has always preferred to be the lackey of another country like the USA in the past and of the Saudis till quite recently and now China should learn to remain as such. On one hand, be dependent on their oil and aids and on the other, argue with them do not go together.

  17. Imran Khan is right. Now Pakistan should make a alliance with Turkish, Iran and Indonesia and Malaysia. Saudia and UAE are trying to create unrest in middle east and Pakistan with the help of RAW, Mossad, M16 and CIA . Here also other western intellengence along with it. So be careful and make a alliance taking China.

  18. Within next 15 years, Pakistan will be an overt colony of China. Make no mistake about it.

    Currently, Pakistani soldiers and Police personnels are openly, in daylight, are being insulted and physically punished by Chinese.
    And you call Pakistan a Sovereign nation?

  19. Hussain Haqani likes to speak and write articles critical to Pakistan which are music to Indian ears.One who is not faithful to his own country cannot be sincere to anybody.He has absolutely no credibility in Pakistan.

  20. Mr. Haqquani is a well known figure, not only because of his past in Pakistan, but also for his eloquence. Both Turkey and Pakistan think too much of themselves and both are hurt by their old husbands – the EU and USA respectively – and are looking at a new savior in China. Their peoples will be hurt badly, both economically and otherwise. There is no scope for wisdom in the muslim-world, only mullah-ratlling.

  21. The author of this is Husain Haqqani, who has disgraced Pakistan’s national status, integrity and interest and is wanted in Pakistan for trial. He is now working on behalf of Anti Pakistan forces and writing especially for pro Modi Indian media to find every potential faults in Pakistan’s policies. Quite a shameful character.

    • All common Muslims around the world hate Saudi rulars for their lavish un-Islamic life-style, alliance with Isreal and massive looting of Saudi oil revenue. Thay all will be happy to see Neo-Ottoman of Turkey rule Saudi Arabia again.

  22. The idea of a partnership with China and Russia to build a Muslim Ummah with Pakistan as it’s epicenter is itself is a quixotic idea. Both Russia and China are not exactly Muslim friendly countries and unlike countries in the West take no prisoners. Ask the Muslims at the receiving end in Chechnya and Xinjiang. Most probably this is just another use and throw idea from Pakistan’s strategic geniuses. Use Russia and China to tackle the West and India before dumping them once the goal is achieved.

  23. An EX Pakistani ambassador to US is the author of this article….. this guy is a traitor to the ummah and Pakistan, nowadays he likes to sit with western women who flick there eyes at him and patronise him. As the saying goes “there’s no fool like an old fool”!!!

  24. Mr Huqqani,
    One should be incredibly naive to buy the idea that a retired playboy (Imran Khan) would suddenly acquire strategic thinking abilities few months in to his role as a PM. The Big Boots may fancy so many things but a debt-trapped nation will just remain that; courtesy Chinese loans. The Arab world is likely to prepare for a world less dependent on oil, rather than propping up a local bouncer that Pak has been marketing themselves as.

    • Husain Haqqani’s article hides Saudi role in financing terrorism worldwide. It were Saudi who financed majority of Wahabi Madarsas that has created sectarian bigotry and changed the relative secular Pakistan into a fundamentalist country. But it appears that Husain Haqqani wants world to forget about Saudi sins because Israeli lobby wants to give a “temporary clean chit” to Saudis so that they can use them against Iran.

  25. Pakistan has always been a follower country since its inception; it followed Soudi Arabia for religious leanings, it followed USA for economic and militray reasons; now it started following Turkey for religious leanings and China for economic and militray reasons. So Pakistan dreams of becoming successful by being a follower always. What a failed idea!

    • India needs to buck up. Pakistan may embark on another Kargil style military campaign. The problem with India is that underestimates Pakistan. The Turks are a problem.

    • Yes it follow india for Atom and it is worst enemy to make . Its all propganda and it give more power to struggle . Pakistan should boost it arms capabilities to defend it self since its enemies are increasing .

      • Israel,USA,Saudia,UAE,Egypt,Oman,
        Kuwait,Bahrain bloc is ready in middle east.
        Israel missile are already shifted to UAE

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