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Pakistan-Saudi rift: What happened? | Saudi Arabia News

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has reaffirmed the strength of its relations with Saudi Arabia this week after a diplomatic spat sparked by perceived inaction by the Gulf kingdom on the issue of Kashmir threatened to derail what has been one of the South Asian country’s strongest alliances in the region.

Earlier this month, Pakistan accused the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of 57 Muslim-majority countries that is led by Saudi Arabia, of inaction over the Kashmir issue – a key policy issue for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan – and threatened to hold a rival meeting that would bypass the group.

“I am once again respectfully telling the OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation,” said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a television news appearance on August 4.

“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

Pakistan has been trying to drum up international support following New Delhi’s decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status last August.

The call was a shot across the bows, ostensibly challenging Saudi Arabian hegemony over leadership of the Muslim world, analysts say, and cut to the heart of the Gulf kingdom’s foreign policy.

“It was extraordinary and unprecedented,” says Cyril Almeida, senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and a Pakistani journalist. “No one had ever seen anything like it before [in the Pakistan-Saudi relationship].”

In response, Saudi Arabia withdrew a $1bn interest-free loan it had extended to Pakistan in November 2018, when the country was in dire economic straits and required foreign reserves to avoid a possible sovereign default.

The kingdom has also, so far, refused to renew a deferred oil payments scheme that was part of the same package, aimed at helping Pakistan ease its import bill.

On August 17, Pakistan’s powerful Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-General Qamar Javed Bajwa was dispatched to Saudi Arabia for talks that were downplayed by a military spokesperson as being “routine” and dealing with “military-to-military” matters.

Days later, Pakistan’s foreign office issued a statement that was glowing in its praise of the OIC’s role on Kashmir, and on Monday, Foreign Minister Qureshi appeared to walk back the comments that initiated the rift.

“The OIC has passed many resolutions on Kashmir and there is no ambiguity in them,” he told reporters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. “They are clear, they are assertive and they are in line with Pakistan’s position.

“I can say to you clearly today: on the issue of Kashmir, Saudi Arabia does not have any difference of opinion [with Pakistan].”

So, what exactly happened?

‘Very out of character’

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have historically held very close ties, with the former dependent on the Gulf kingdom’s oil supplies and financial largesse in times of economic strife.

Last year, the two countries’ trade relationship totalled more than $1.7bn, of which 74 percent consisted of Pakistani oil imports from Saudi Arabia, as per Pakistani central bank data. In all, Pakistan imports roughly a quarter of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is also home to more than 2.5 million Pakistani expatriate workers, whose remittances form a major portion of Pakistan’s incoming foreign reserves every year. Last month, Pakistanis resident in Saudi Arabia sent home more than $821m, roughly 30 percent of all remittances into the country, according to central bank data.

The two countries have also had close military ties, with Pakistan providing troops and training to the kingdom at its request.

“The military partnership with Pakistan is important to Saudi Arabia,” says Madiha Afzal, a foreign policy fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution.

“And Pakistan’s population brings a venue for Saudi religious soft power and influence – Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world, it is majority Sunni, and Saudi Arabia wants it squarely in its corner.”

Given the close ties, Afzal says Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi’s initial remarks were “very out of character for Pakistan”.

Moreover, the threat to convene a meeting bypassing the OIC “would directly undermine Saudi Arabia’s posture, and position, of leadership in the Muslim world”.

This is not the first time Pakistan has posited the possibility of an alternate bloc. In December, Malaysia hosted the Kuala Lumpur Summit, a group that rivalled the OIC and was initiated by Malaysia, Saudi rival Turkey and Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Khan pulled out of attending the summit at the last minute, and in later remarks attributed his decision to Saudi objections to the group.

Pakistan has also objected to growing ties between Saudi Arabia and India, Pakistan’s eastern neighbour, with whom it has fought three full-scale wars since both countries gained independence from the British in 1947.

On a visit to Islamabad in 2019 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) signed $20bn in projects with the South Asian country.

A visit to New Delhi immediately after saw MBS say he expected to invest more than $100bn in Pakistan’s regional rival. Saudi-India bilateral trade stands at more than $30bn.

In recent years, under MBS, a more pro-active Saudi Arabian foreign policy has seen countries such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar fall squarely in its crosshairs.

But could Pakistan pivot away from its historic sponsor?

“The issue really was challenging Saudi leadership of the Muslim world,” says James Dorsey, a Singapore-based academic and journalist who has studied Pakistan-Saudi ties for decades. “It would mean Pakistan hooking up with Turkey, Iran, Qatar and possibly Malaysia and Indonesia, three of which are Saudi rivals.”

That pivot, however, is unlikely to happen given current circumstances, says Dorsey.

“Pakistan needs energy supplies, finance and investment. The Saudis seem to have called finance and potentially energy into question given the lack of response to a Pakistani request for an extension of the delay in Saudi oil supplies,” he says.

Given Pakistan’s still tenuous economic prospects – the economy shrunk by 0.38 percent in the last financial year, the first time it has done so in more than 60 years – why pick the fight at all, then?

“It is a bit of a mystery,” says Almeida, the journalist.

“Conventional wisdom since Qureshi’s outburst on local TV is that the foreign minister got carried away – that he was likely tasked by the [Pakistani] military to diplomatically raise Pakistan’s concerns with Saudi Arabia, but delivered a message that in substance and tone was beyond the brief he was given.”

‘Delicately walk back’

Qureshi’s remarks this week, and an earlier Foreign Office (FO) statement, appeared at stark odds with those made earlier, and appear to signal a de-escalation in tensions, analysts have said.

“I think that [FO] statement, more than anything, suggests that Pakistan will not take the actions [the foreign minister] hinted at in his remarks,” says Afzal. “And it suggests that the Saudi reaction – including on the [Pakistani army chief’s] trip – has led Pakistan to delicately walk back Qureshi’s comments.”

Afzal says the Pakistani walk-back indicated that the country “does not have the option of [turning away from Saudi Arabia] in any significant way”.

Dorsey believes the tensions will continue to simmer, albeit in private rather than public.

“Both sides likely will want to downplay the spat and prevent it from escalating,” he says. “But even if the Saudis back down, it will leave scars.”

For Almeida, Pakistan has developed other foreign allies to rely on in times of economic distress – notably China, with whom it is building the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – but the possibilities afforded by those relationships are not endless.

“The rise of China and the centrality of Pakistan to the Belt and Road Initiative has given Pakistan new strategic options,” he says. “China is believed to have provided emergency funds to Pakistan after the Saudis demanded a part of their loan back.

“[…] While surely neither Pakistan nor Saudi would want a rupture in ties, Pakistan is not as dependent on Saudi assistance as it may once have been.”

Afzal says Saudi Arabia appeared to have drawn a clear line in the sand and pushed Pakistan back across it.

“Pakistan’s expectations from the OIC and Saudi Arabia on Kashmir have now been tempered, and realism has set in on that front for Islamabad,” she says. “This ties Pakistan’s hands a bit on the issue of Kashmir’s autonomy.”

With that new boundary established, ties may soon resume at close to their previous tenor, she says.

“As long as Pakistan doesn’t push Saudi Arabia where it doesn’t want to be pushed (on Kashmir), the two countries can get past the spat.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye

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The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.

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Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the race.here is the full statement:

MEDIA AND THE COFIT ENTERPRISE

By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”
AFRICAN PROVERB

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge

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Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT
Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.

ChangeYouCanTrust

CountryBeforeSelf

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