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Muhammad Junaid: Saudi Security Council Chief asks Pakistan’s support to suppress dissent

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, people [are] still reacting to the death and assassination of Osama bin Laden. But perhaps there’s something even more significant that’s taken place that’s changing the politics of the region, meaning Afghan-Pakistan region. But that’s the Arab uprising. What does all this mean to people in Pakistan and Afghanistan who may not be directly part of the Middle East but certainly are very much part of the politics? So now joining us to discuss this is Muhammad Junaid. He’s a PhD student in London. He’s Pashtun. And he’s a often-contributor to The Real News Network. Thanks again for joining us, Junaid.


JAY: So talk about this Arab uprising and what are the effects of it on the Afghan-Pakistan area.

JUNAID: I would say, you know, Afghanistan has, you know, really come into the Arab context after 1980, when you see, you know, the many Arabs, you know, financing and fighting against Russia. But if you look at Pakistan, the Pakistani partnership with the Arab countries, the Gulf countries, is very old, especially after 1970, you know, when Pakistan, you know, was divided into two parts [incompr.] Bangladesh was separated. The big initiative taken by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and, you know, /Sa."fa.s@l/ was something that, you know, really alarmed America, and, you know, then the oil embargo and everything. And even now, you know, even today, China and Saudi Arabia, you know, and UAE as well, makes, you know, a big part of Pakistan’s final options. When, you know, America says no to everything, then these aqre the countries. Saudi Arabia, you know, is a country, UAE is a country who, you know, provided a lot of oil, you know, on deferred payments, you know, for a year or two. The problem is now that in Saudi Arabia there are, you know, some uprisings coming up. Egypt is, you know, something which was within Pakistan’s view. But, you know, there are no deep relationships with Egypt in this way. But Bahrain and, you know, then Saudi Arabia and Yemen is, you know, a big concern. Saudi Arabia is a very big concern. The problem in Saudi Arabia is, you know, they don’t have, you know, a very good military, actually. It is well known within Pakistan that if you want to go to Saudi Arabia, then they can, you know, offer you a good police and military job. Their military is not, you know, good enough. There is, you know, a big American base as well, more than one American base, actually, in Gulf countries. But it is very hard, you know, for Saudis to ask the non-Muslim forces, you know, to come and help them. So, recently, you know, after a few small uprisings in Saudi Arabia, two or three, you know, security personnel, security chief, the interior minister, I think, of Saudi Arabia visited Pakistan and tried to, you know, get some commitment from Pakistani army, you know, to have a one- or two-division force from them. So [incompr.] was there.

JAY: So the Saudis helped to rely on the Pakistani military to help them suppress dissent in Saudi Arabia [sic].

JUNAID: Yes, because, you know, if there is, you know, a big uprising in Saudi Arabia, then they don’t know, you know, how to actually deal with them. If you look at, you know, the independent reports, you know, which are coming out of Bahrain, the Gulf, the GCC countries [incompr.] has, you know, really come down very hard on the people there. And that has not, you know, gone down very well with the people. So the Saudis don’t actually know, you know, how to deal with this kind of uprising.

JAY: It’s kind of ironic, because I’ve understood so many of the madrasahs, the schools in Pakistan that are turning out Taliban fighters, a lot of them have been financed with Saudi money, and some of those Taliban fighters are turning around and turn their guns on the Pakistani government. It’s very complex politics in these areas.

JUNAID: Yes. The reason, you know, for that, for the Pakistani Taliban, you know, or other Taliban turning their guns [incompr.] when the Pakistani policy changed. When Pakistan was against Russia or against an invading nation, you know, all the religious, you know, madrasah people helped them. But when, you know, they sided America and they went against Taliban, then, you know, that’s it for the religious-minded, Pakistani army then is an enemy or, you know, not a friend, surely. But now, you know, the concern is how is Saudi Arabia, you know, going to deal with its own uprising [crosstalk]

JAY: Now, in terms of Pakistan itself, as people watch these uprisings, is it spurred, the opposition, in Pakistan?

JUNAID: There are, you know, many analysis coming out why it is not happening in Pakistan. And the main problem in Pakistan is, you know, Pakistan is a very, very divided country. There is many ethnic groups. There is no one issue around which they can, you know, actually rally around. Also, people, you know, think that there should be, you know, a revolution, but they don’t know why should there be a revolution and what would they do in that. Pakistan is–you know, there is, you know, enough democracy in Pakistan. There is free speech, I would say. Pakistani media is, you know, very vibrant. They criticize, you know, the army very openly, I mean. So there is, you know, enough vent, you know, to give up that pressure. So I don’t think, you know, there will be that kind of uprising in Pakistan. And even if there is, you know, then the army is there [incompr.] takes over very easily.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Muhammad.

JUNAID: Thank you very much.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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Muhammad Junaid is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute on Management Studies, University of Peshawar in Pakistan. He holds a Masters degree in Business and IT and contributes regularly to blogs. He is currently doing his PHD in entrepreneurship from University of Essex, UK. His particular topic of interests include the identity of Afghan (Pashtun) entrepreneurs. As a Pashtun himself, he communicates the events in Afghanistan and Pakistan by interpreting them with respect to Pashtun culture.