Saudi-Iran rivalry and the role of Pakistan

It is evident beyond the shred of doubt and a well-documented fact that 1979 Iranian revolution was the water shedding movement in the history of world politics. After the revolution strong Shia regime came on the forefront and hold reign of the country. There is no denying the impression that till 1979 both Saudi Arabia and Iran enjoyed a cordial relationship. It is evident beyond an iota of doubt that both countries not share similar ideological and religious beliefs but are also a part of regional organizations.
If we jump into the annals of history it can easily be palpable that after the soviet invasion of Afghanistan both countries were on the same page to disentangle Afghanistan from the trap of soviets. But, after the disintegration of Soviet Union both Muslim states come eyeball-to-eyeball stand offs on the number of occasions. In addition to this, both countries supported their groups in the graveyard of empires. As a matter of fact Iran enjoyed considerable influence over Northern Alliance while Saudi Arabia on Taliban. The relations between the two hit the nadir when Taliban captured Afghanistan city of Mazar Sharif and killed there scores of Shiites that due to which relations dip to new lows. So it can easily be palpable that relations remained mostly in doldrums and clouds of distress are hovering over it.
The recent wave of hostilities is owing to execution of Nimr-Al-Nimr on Jan 2, 2016 along with 40 other persons by Saudi authorities. Moreover, Sheikh Nimr-Al-Nimr was the leading Shia cleric. This execution had touched off violent demonstrations along Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East. Furthermore, violent demonstrators attacked diplomatic mission Tehran, President Rouhani and supreme leader of Iran Ali Khamenei denounced the executions in a harder note. As a result diplomatic ties between the two countries were fractured and Saudi Arabia called back its diplomatic mission from Iran as well as many other Muslim countries cut diplomatic ties with Iran.
Saudi Arabia in 2016 announced to make a military alliance of 41 Muslim countries and kept out Iraq, Syria, Iran and many other countries. So, Iran perceives and conceives this alliance as an anti-Iran. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran supports opposite sides in the Syrian conflict by dint of which 500,000 people have lost their lives.
In this regard role of Pakistan is very crucial and critical and enjoys an excellent relation with the both. It is a well-established fact if Pakistan looks through Geo-strategic, Geo-economic and religious lens it must not take part in the rivalry and provides its good offices in this regard to heal the rift between the two countries. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia absorbs both skilled and unskilled people of Pakistan with its embassy in Pakistan issuing 30,000 visas per month.
Moreover, both countries share a trade of 6 billion USD. Additionally, 2 million Diasporas reside in the Saudi Arabia and sending remittances of 2 billion USD annually to keep the economy afloat. Above all, as a Muslim Pakistanis has a strong affiliation with the Makkah and Madina. On the other hand, Iran is the immediate neighbor of Pakistan with Shah of Iran being the first head who visited Pakistan as well as 20 % of Pakistan’s total population belongs to Shia sect. So, Pakistan can ill afford to participate in the rivalry and must find a middle ground.
It is the need of the hour that both the Muslim countries must bury the hatchet by resolving their issues in a peaceful manner. Furthermore, and put their entire focus in the right direction to disentangle Muslims from the web of terrorism, extremism, poverty and illiteracy. It is the right time to save the Muslim ship from sinking by using the platform of OIC.

The writer is a Doctor of Pharmacy and has interest in socio, economic, religious, educational and international affairs. He can be reached at:

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