The Gulf crisis that started with Saudi-led group of Middle East countries severing diplomatic ties with their neighbor and regional ally Qatar has grown into an economic and military blockade of the country. This issue has a long back story that is complicated and much shrouded in mystery but it is a diplomatic as well as political crisis having its impact on not only the immediately affected countries but on a wider Islamic population. Pakistan having friendly ties with all the parties involved in the conflict, has so far remained on the sidelines without showing too much leaning towards either side. Now that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa have landed in Saudi Arabia along with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz indicates that this minimal role playing by Pakistan is about to change.
While Pakistan’s influence in the region may be limited and its diplomatic weight in the Middle East not that much actively felt, it occupies a unique and potentially useful position as it has friendly ties with all the Middle Eastern and countries involved in the current Gulf crisis. From Saudi Arabia to Qatar and from Egypt to Iran, Pakistan has genuinely friendly and stable ties with all sides — precisely the kind of committed and relatively neutral stakeholder that can act as a mediator to help rescue a region from a greater crisis. Pakistan should use this natural leverage that it has over all other countries for the purpose of diffusing tensions between Gulf countries. This will not only help Pakistan in upping its international diplomatic standing by a notch but also will be a step in the right direction for Islamic countries who till ow have failed to resolve their internal conflicts on their own.
This intention of mediation should be the first priority of Pakistan but if it cannot effectively play a crisis-fighting role, there must be a categorical indication sent to all sides that Pakistan values its relations with all countries and the Pakistani national interest requires it to stay neutral in the current crisis. The recent claims by some sections of the Middle Eastern media that the Pakistani is considering sending troops to Qatar underlines the risks involved in a conflict in which the media is used as weapon and the Foreign Office has done the right thing by quickly and categorically denying the possibility of Pakistani troops being sent to Qatar. It should also take all the necessary steps in order to ensure and present its neutral outlook to the world. Pakistan should also seriously start reconsidering its participating in so called Islamic Military Alliance which effectively is in control of Saudi Arabia.