Will Pakistan Send Troops to the Gulf?
The lack of massive demonstrations in Saudi Arabia on the scale of those elsewhere in the region (Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, etc.) has garnered much attention from commentators, as did the deployment of Saudi security forces to help put down unrest in Bahrain. Pakistan has also played something of a quiet role over the past several weeks. Islamabad has enhanced bilateral defense ties with Manama and strongly backed the kingdom’s crackdown. This is not altogether surprising: Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni royal family and Pakistan is a Sunni-majority country; further, some 50,000 Pakistanis currently live in Bahrain. Those of our readers who have traveled to the region are aware, of course, that Pakistanis frequently “do the jobs Arabs don’t want to do.” Now there are indications that Pakistan may be ready to contribute some military power to prop up the unstable Sunni royal families.
According to the Asia Times, two divisions of Pakistani troops are on stand-by for deployment to Saudi Arabia in case they are needed to quell an uprising. Bahrain has also sought some 800 foreign recruits from Pakistan for its National Guard; new recruits are reportedly being offered just over $1,000 per month for their service. You can bet the Gulf Arabs are footing the bill. This practice has been going on for years.
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are not the first Arab states to have sought Pakistani recruits. In 1979, the Baluchi nationalist Hameed Baloch attacked a military officer from Oman who was recruiting mercenaries in Pakistani Baluchistan. Oman, it should be noted, has also experienced significant unrest over the past month.