Is Pakistan willing to jeopardise its relations with Iran for Saudi Arabia?

Published: April 2, 2017

Army chief General Raheel Sharif receives King Abdul Aziz Medal of Excellence from Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud during his official visit to Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: ISPR

It was shocking to hear Defence Minister Khwaja Asif proudly confirm that the government has agreed to the Saudi request and will allow former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif to command the Saudi-led military alliance of 34 Muslim nations to fight terrorism. However, observers are concerned that the coalition could be used for future conflicts against Iran and its ally Yemen. 

The National Assembly had earlier agreed that it would not be in the country’s interest to take sides in the present war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen (Iran’s ally), and had decided that Pakistan would stay neutral in the conflict. Hence, this recent announcement comes as a bolt from the blue. I would like to know how and why the government decided to agree to Saudi’s request without taking the people into confidence. This is a serious matter which should have been debated in Parliament before the decision was taken.

Perhaps our parliamentarians are too young to remember the 1965 war with India or have seem to have forgotten what happened. During the events leading up to the war, we had only two friends/allies who openly sided with us. The most vocal was the Shah of Iran and the other was President Soekarno of Indonesia. In fact, from the very beginning, Iran has been our true friend and ally. It was the first country to establish diplomatic relations with us after Pakistan became independent, and the Shah was the first foreign head of state to visit Pakistan. After we lost East Pakistan, the Shah warned India that any attack on Pakistan would be considered to be an attack on Iran. Furthermore, not many Pakistanis are aware of the fact that our national anthem is in Persian. Moreover, Iranians can converse easily with the Pakhtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and our national language Urdu is closer to Persian than it is to Arabic.

Moreover, Pakistan has the world’s second largest population of Shia Muslims (more than 20%). Our government should have consulted the country’s Shia leaders before giving a no-objection certificate (NOC) to General Raheel to head the alliance.

It is therefore in our interest not to further antagonise Iran. The relations between Pakistan and Iran have recently been strained due to our closeness with Saudi Arabia, but have not yet reached a breaking point. Iran is our next door neighbour and has plenty of natural gas which we urgently require.

Moreover, for once, I totally agree with Imran Khan who has decided to oppose the government on this issue. Imran voiced strong reservations over these developments related to the country’s foreign policy and claimed that his party would take up the issue during the upcoming sessions of the National Assembly. He had previously accused the government of not taking the parliament into confidence before making such decisions of utmost importance as it is in violation of a 2015 resolution. As per the resolution, Pakistan, while vowing to protect Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty, had unanimously decided not to interfere in the unfolding developments in the Middle East, particularly the on-going civil war in Yemen.

General Sharif should listen to Imran and to those who have Pakistan’s best interests at heart, and should re-consider his decision.

In fact, I have a suggestion for both the government and the general. The government should appoint General Sharif as an ambassador at large who can act as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran. If the two countries become allies and stop spending heavily on weapons meant to destroy each other, it will help both the countries and the entire Muslim world in terms of progression. Saudi Arabia should realise that its main enemy is not Iran, and not sectarianism. It should reach out to Iran and try to eliminate any misunderstanding between the two countries. Their enmity will only benefit the enemies of the Muslim world, who are relished to watch these two Muslim powers hell bent upon annihilating each other.

Hence I appeal to General Sharif to decline the offer and I urge Nawaz Sharif to appoint the general as a roving mediator. As the only Muslim country to possess nuclear weapons, it is our duty to help our fellow Muslim brethren.

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Waqar.M

    Pakistani generals and the Punjabi establishment are on Saudi payroll, Saudi Arabia pays Pakistani elite and the generals millions of dollars. Its a shame that Pakistani elite is careless about the country future and think only about their own future.Recommend

  • FayezNoor

    Shah of Iran was true friend of Pakistan but not Khumenis.

    Shah of Iran had good relationship with every Muslim country. But after Iran revolution, it changed drastically. Khumenis started bullying every non shia muslim nation openly which led to further division of Shia Sunni. They openly started threatening to take over mecca and madinah after revolution in speeches which caused panic in sunni. and now we are here in 2017 where Iran has no sunni allies and rightly so. Iran keeps threatening every nation. they regularly fire missiles into pakistan territory.

    Your article is true but don’t apply in today situation where Iran in under khumeni control who even gave negative statement & condemned when pakistan conducted nuclear blasts.only KSA stood by pakistan then when sanctions were imposed. unfortunately Iran is not our ally anymore. It is in our best interest to keep ties with other countries. Iran is not trust worthy under khumeniRecommend

  • Broken Skull

    My dear Saudi Arabia also helped Pakistan alot in every war like 1965 and 1971.
    go and get the details.still thousands of barrels of oil they give free of cost to Pakistan on a daily basis.
    How much pakistani journalists got paid to propagate against ex COAS and to support indian and iranian view point?
    iran is sending spies in our country in form of uzair baloch but foolish journalists are still arguing not to offend iran.
    Iran didnot asked pakistan before making chah bahar port with our sworn enemy India.then why we should ask Iran before joining an alliance where MAJORITY of Muslim countries is present.
    we are with majority and majority is authority.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    After displacing millions of Pashtuns in the tribal land, he has earned the reward to live displaced in foreign lands preferably in Saudi Arabia a place to rehablitate human soul.

    Rex Minor.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Pakistan is only interested in who will fill up its begging bowl and the only answer is Saudi Arabia since Pakistanis consider themselves superior to Iranians.
    Secondly Urdu is an Indian language and closer to Hindi than it is to Persian so why not have have good relations with us? But oh wait we need to kill as many Hindus as we can to justify the creation of pakisTan Recommend

  • FactCheck

    Since, when did Pakistan have a strategy in their dealings with other countries? Never. It is always been one of here and now for convenience of the moment.Recommend

  • Hikmatullah Sahib

    I fully concur with your insightful observation and thoughtful suggestion on appointment of the much-loved General as the Rowing Ambassador of Peace between these two brotherly countries. History has shown us that Saudi Arabia has played a pivotal role in the dismemberment of the khilafah and the subsequent creation of illegitimate Zionist entity in the land of Islam Palestine. I am still wondering whose biddings do the Saudis doing? Muslim world is highly suspicious of the Saudi move. Pakistan should remain vigilant against the Saudi holy trickery.Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    Saudi Arabia and GCC Have Historically Been Close Friends To Pakistan And Have Sided By It In Testing of Times (e.g Right After 1998 Nuclear Blast)

    What Has Iran Given???Kalbhushan Yadev???? Uzair Baloch????

    I Am Going to Be Straightforward Don’t Care If Any Wannabe Liberal Calls Me A “Wahabi”Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Iran has recently befriended India, Afghanistan and USA. It is following and sponsoring their narrative. Except during the Shah’s reign we had cordial relations with Iran. Subsequently with the advent of a Theocratic Iran led by Khomeini and subsequent Govts Governed by the Clerics Iran has started sponsoring its Shia community all over the world to flaunt their brand of Islam. It has started flexing its muscles with Pakistan. Some strings of Terrorism in Pakistan lead to Iran. The latest is in the case of the Lyari gang mastermind whose links have been found in Iran. Sponsoring the TTP with India to cause destabilization in Pakistan. Likewise in KSA. It wants to strike at the citadel of Islam to weaken the Muslims. This Sunni Allaince should send a message to Iran to look Inwards.Recommend

  • Rahul

    Unfortunately beggars cannot be choosers!Recommend

  • Tariq Haq

    After Shah if Iran, list how well has Iran facilitated Pakistan, economically, financially apart from millions of Pakistanis working there and compare with Iran’s constant support for India in all matters.over Pakistan with no social, ecinomic or material help ever. Minority population of shias , cannot dictate policies. Pakistan is a Muslim state and should think its own policies. First result of Raheel’s heading IMAFT, Iran wants to mediate on Kashmir! Naive or ill informed Iran is on.board.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Urdu is 99% Hindi not Persian.Recommend

  • Riz

    The defence relation between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan been for long time and Pakistani troops been stationed there it is not anything knew. On other hand relation with Iran have been strained for decades.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    Taking side is easiest thing, while keeping balance requires very very mature leadership and long term thinking. Pakistan was a progressive state but their leaders pushed her on wrong path for short term gains.
    Agree with author that Pakistan should try to maintain balance or even better if try to reduce tensions between two nations who have ambitions to become leader of Muslims. A Pakistani leading a force which look like anti Iran force will send wrong message to immediate neighbor.
    Only one thing which goes to favor of KSA is that when Pakistan was in trouble KSA assisted with money, cheaper oil and assisting Taliban during USSR ambitions (If I am right). Pakistan should be obliged.Recommend

  • Humair Ali

    Dear writer please get your facts write a slight look into history i assume the hostory you mentioned in favor of iran is correct excet the fact that shah iran is overthrown who did all that and now new government is in place who Recommend

  • Milind A

    Actually the author is half-right.. Because his sense of balance starts and stops with Muslim Ummah.. Ideally, Pakistan should go one step further and see all countries without the Islamic glasses. This will rapidly improve its relations with non-Muslim countries and that includes India as wellRecommend

  • Ahsan Khan

    Iran was a friend during the Shah’s rule. Now, it’s an aristocracy run by a bunch of religious fanatics who hate all Sunni sects and openly side with Shia majorities in the world. Nothing against my Shia brothers, we are all Muslims with differences of opinion but Iran really needs to understand who it’s friends are before its too late.Recommend

  • Patwari

    First of all Generale Raheel Sharif wants the Moola,..[also called money, dinero,
    dollars, ruppiahs, dinars, shekels, riyals, ringgit, peso, swag,] and the perks that
    go with the job. Job composed from Arab nations
    that have a history of squabbling among themselves. These countries have never won
    a war, in recent history. [Barring Medieval History and the rise of Islam]
    This includes Turkey, the single non Arab country. The great Pashas, like Mehmet and
    the Janissaries are long gone.
    The fast dwindling Petro Dollars can still afford to buy all this. For now.
    The Generale, a millionaire, will add some more millions, and a retirement villa in the
    Khaleeg, next to the sea.
    Nothing to it. This is the way it works. Period.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Wrong. What is spoken by people like Atal Bihari Vajpayee is Hindi (which very few Indians and Pakistanis understand). If you think the language used in Bollywood movies is Hindi, you’re wrong. It’s Urdu. All so-called Hindi Indian film songs are actually in Urdu, which is descended from Persian, Arabic and Turkish as well as Sanskrit.Recommend

  • My Gana

    Why did they not select someone from Turkey or Egypt? They must have refused.Recommend

  • vinsin

    Not only Hindus but all minorities – Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Yezdi, Jains, Sikhs etc. Final aim is to get rid of all non-Muslims of the world.Recommend

  • vinsin

    That is not their aim. Main aim this alliance against Shia and minorities of the world. Issues between India and Pakistan created by India and Indian Muslims.Recommend

  • Imran Abbass

    Gulf States including UAE and Saudi Arabia are more close to India than Pakistan. Currently, 0.7 million Pakistanis work in UAE, whereas Indian population is 1.4 million. Same is the case with Saudi Arabia where population of Indians is 100% more than Pakistani population. Pakistanis working in these countries are treated like slaves whereas Indians are being given special status. Gulf States are helping India to run its economy which is being used against Kashmiris and Pakistan. Why these Gulf States do not get help from India when they feel insecure? The answer is quite simple. Because our services are for sale and leadership is on Saudi Payroll.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    You have valid points but they need not break your skull.Your former two COAS are better off in foreign lands after having caused enough damage in Pakistan. Besides, Pakistan is committed to support Saudi Arabia through a defense treaty against the tributes payments.

    Rex Minor
    PS Pakistan Government should encourage other retired officers to join the Saudi forces as advisers if not in active service. .Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    We shouldnt expect too much ! People with Large mind and heart think big.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    “Minority population of ~20% cant dictate policies !!! ”
    Interesting statement !Recommend

  • Shah Saeed

    Urdu Is Infact 40% Hindi The Rest Are Persian Arabic Turkish and Hebrew WordsRecommend

  • Shah Saeed

    No Sometimes You Have Generous Charity Givers Like USA Who Would Dole Out Great Amounts Of Aid

    And Still Let You Be Friends With Soviet Union Who Would Give You Yet More AidRecommend

  • Sami Shahid

    Hindi is very much different from UrduRecommend

  • Sami Shahid

    Question is… Is Pakistan ready to jeopardize its relations with Saudi Arabia for Iran ?Recommend

  • Hidayat Rizvi

    I can’t believe this is happening in 21st century. Is this the Gujarat model that’s being talked about. I have seen caste system or as some people prefer say caste. I think it will go away through social changes with most importantly by marriage especially arrange marriage between upper caste and Dalit, tribal people, especially between upper caste bride and Dalit or tribal groom. In the article exactly same is described and is some how considered as crossing the line by some people. Inter-caste marriage is crossing the line. This is sheer Hippocracy. I petsonally approve and encrourage inter caste marriage. Fight for it, take police protection, let media know if some harraces you and tries to prevents inter caste marriage. Growing number of people argue that the caste system was a British construct have been brainwashed by Hindutva theoreticians who want to deflect the problem. If the British and Muslims are responsible for caste, why don’t the Hindus give it up ? Inter caste marriage may not be the right recommendation as 99% marriages are arranged within caste. Ambedkar had the right riecommendation : conversion. Ambedkar made a mistake converting to Buddhism. With Buddhism, caste will come from the back door as the Hindus claim Buddhism is part of Hinduism. Conversion to Islam and Christianity is the only way to end this cruel social system which is the obstacle to India’s development….!!.!!Recommend

  • Juan

    The USA is still quite anti-Iran, despite their shared opposition of IS in Iraq, and pro-KSA as seen with their military alliance in the Yemen war.

    It’s being alleged by unknown security sources who spoke to Geo News that Baloch was in touch with Iran’s intelligence agency apart from the Indian one. Of course we are talking about the same Pak intelligence sources that can’t admit TTP are local Sunni Islamist terrorists and rather stupidly with extreme prejudice blame foreign agencies for its own made ideological extremist and militancy crisis.

    There was a strike and destabilization in KSA by IS terrorists, also Sunni Islamist extremists, but apparently this Sunni Alliance seems uninterested in hunting down that sort of terrorism by fellow Sunni fundamentalists.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “when did Pakistan have a strategy in their dealings with other countries? Never. ”

    Not true. Pakistan has always had a very good strategy. It is called milking the richer countries for the maximum dollars through their mercenary strategy.Recommend

  • as1991

    It is so obvious that Iran does not spare any effort to spread sedition in the region. Let it be in Yemen or other countries. Thus, Pakistan is cooperating with SA to reclaim peace. It is plain and simple why would Iran continue such and similar acts? SA has some Shia in the east province so it is not about Shia or Sunna. It is about Iran’s strict interpretation of Islam. Iran seeks domination over the region regardless of losses.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    lol, this person does not know anything about urdu then.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    King Abdul Aziz Medal of Excellence. LOL

    I would not take such an award where this names come in.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    and you keep on killing Muslims to justify?Recommend

  • PatelPara

    “still thousands of barrels of oil they give free of cost to Pakistan on a daily basis.” wrong no evidence of this what so ever. we have been duped about this all our lives.

    iranian view point? jundullah terrorists go from pakistan’s border and kill innocents in iran. has iran ever said anything against that? they don’t think it’s Pakistan’s policy to go against Iran.

    iran only did chabahar because nobody in this world helps Iran. Which muslim country has helped Iran? be honest? who all buy oil from iran? so if Muslim countries won’t buy from iran being neighbors then they have to survive the sanctions?

    india had the guts to say NO to usa and still did dealing with iran.

    iran is the only muslim power who is actually fighting against saudia/usa funded isis. they should have been included in this fight.

    but experts in Pakistan and outside Pakistan know that this alliance is made to save israel. because we all know isis doesn’t do anything to that. this alliance will only support saudia who is actually killing innocents in yemen as I type here.

    why this alliance wasn’t made against israel?

    why this alliance was not made against india?

    please don’t look from anti-shia perspective all the time.Recommend

  • Shah Saeed

    It Takes A Massive Lack of Self Awareness For An Indian To Be Passing Such Comments.Adivasi Tribes Are Being Displaced By Corporate India Every day Yet Forgetting Your Own Countrymen You Have To Give Sermons to PakistanRecommend

  • Patwari

    Comment was altered.Recommend

  • Mesquite Ice

    The war itself is about Oil/Gas. The GCC does not want to lose the lucrative european oil market to Iran/russia. In fact GCC will not let Iran supply gas/oil to even pakistanRecommend

  • Rohan

    A Pakistani telling us what language Bollywood makes it movies in ,I just can’t believe you are so deluded by your hate ideology.Yea we know your national language is Urdu but please it’s not the language of pakistan or of Bollywood.
    In Bollywood it’s a combination of Marathi,Hindi,Konkani,Gujarati and Urdu Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    I Spent Major Part Of My Life In Saudi And I Have Not Seen Any Indian Get “Special Status”

    Enough WIth The Irnian PropagandaRecommend

  • Razzy

    Hindi is as much a ‘manufactured’ language as Urdu is. No wonder the Tamilians in the south hate it to be imposed on them. There was no ‘Hindi’ before either. It was the UP dialect ‘khari boli’ spoken around modern day awadh (ever heard of awadhi??) to which sanskrit words were infused to create Hindi. Get some facts before blabbering on here!Recommend

  • Razzy

    Hindi, much like Urdu, is a ‘manufactured’ language.Either way all languages are influenced by some or the other. No wonder the Tamilians in the south hate it to be imposed on them. There was no ‘Hindi’ before either. It was the UP dialect ‘khari boli’ spoken around modern day awadh (ever heard of awadhi??) to which sanskrit words were infused to create Hindi

    But no, your superiority complex would have that ALL languages evolved from sanskrit, perhaps even latin too?? heheRecommend

  • Razzy

    Pakistan would be much better off partnering with Iran than with the Saudis. All they care for are their kingdom . But no, like most other nations, they’d rather ‘partner’ with the double dealing west rather than with an Iran which is the only region (other than what remains of Syria) which has a spine.
    And no I am NOT a shia but merely stating facts!Recommend

  • Rohan

    Dude I know more than you so watch yourself and who said anything about manufactured language , we understand your Talkshows perfectly fine without actually learning an alphabet of Urdu Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    I am not an Indan and your bias against India has fogged your mind from the reality are indoctrnated. The truth is that you guys are indoctrinated .

    Rex Minor.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    the new operation against Shias in Pakistan is alarming.Recommend

  • Nas

    All those raising these questions, have they ever questioned Iran closest relation with India. They clearly going as far against Pakistan interests to build chahbahar with India as soon as Pakistan building Gawadar. Also Indian spies openly operating from Iran.
    Fact is even Musim counties like Iran and UAE don’t want to see Pakistan development, both supported Bloach rebels just to destabilise Pakistan. They see Pakistan development as threat. Only Saudi Arabia always helped Pakistan.
    Have you forgotten UAE crown Prince went to India and announced $75 billion USD investment in India against CPEC. Although they don’t have that much money. Recommend

  • Nas

    Pakistan took calculated move as Iran always went against Pakistan interests in Afghanistan and closest relations with India. Also Iran support to push for Shia Sunni riverly inside Pakistan is another fact. Pakistan policy makers waited 2 years to see what Iran is willing to do to address Pakistan concerns. Recommend

  • Nas

    What future you are talking about, Saudi Arabia single handedly saved Pakistan from bsnkcuupcy at least 3 times. Always provided oil and money when we were under International sanctions. Have you ever seen any penny invested in Pakistan by Iranians. Intact they went hand in hand with India to develop Chahbahar as soon Pakistan starters Gawadar. I am in love with Farsi I went to Khana Farhang to study it but for me Pakistan comes first.Recommend


    IRAN didnt given these two. planted by pak only to make fool out of pak people.Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    You Can Keep Chanting Lies Does Not Change The Facts That RAW Is Caught Red HandedRecommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    India Voted Against Iran When At UN When Sanctions Were Being Placed.Pakistan At Least Stayed Neutral.India Could Not Say No To USA

    India Did Not Develop Chabahar Out Of Charity But Because It Wanted An Alternate To Central Asia

    Saudis Have Given Oil On Favourable Terms On Many Occasions I Can Give You Great Details

    Turkey and Gulf States Purchased Fuel As Well As Electricity From Iran During Sanctions

    Do Some Research Before Posting.Recommend


    prove it man. india already taking it to ICJ because it knows kulbhushan is innocent.Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    Oh Yes An ‘innocent man’ With A Fake Passport in A restive Area NiceRecommend


    Yes people use this trap to frame someone. Prove it that he is the culprit. Confession videos are as bad as mahiras movie.Recommend

  • ThePrincekhan999

    Taking A Cheap Shot At Mahira Does Not Give Your Argument Any Weight.Your Own Media Has Admitted That Yadav Got The Passport Illegally in India Does That Means “Indians” Were Trying To Trap Him???? PatheticRecommend