Did Saudi Arabia ask Nawaz Sharif to call off his protest movement?
In the first week of December 2017, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant-General Nasir Khan Janjua, met his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in Bangkok, reportedly to discuss “peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC.”
Three weeks later, Saudi Arabia sent a special plane for Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and “discussed something” with him in Riyadh. His brother, chief of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), also flew to Saudi Arabia. Both brothers did a more than pious Umra while, back home, Pakistan feverishly speculated about this extraordinary itinerary of travel. And why did Janjua meet Doval to discuss bilateral issues that can no longer be resolved?
Saudi Arabia is influential in Pakistan, both with politicians and the Army. It is also influential with India and is close to the United States because of their joint hatred of Iran. Indian newspapers thought the Janjua-Doval meeting was a precursor of a bilateral thaw. A few days later, Pakistan shooed its U.N.-declared arch-terrorist Hafiz Saeed back into his safe house after hearing that a U.N. delegation was soon to come and see if Pakistan was observant of its U.N. sanctions on Hafiz Saeed. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman could have “cleared” the confiscation of Hafiz Saeed’s rich establishment based on leverage acquired on the basis of the latter’s Wahhabi contacts.
Prince Muhammad could have told the Sharifs to get ready for the big change ordained by the Army. The dire signal of warning came with the no-confidence upset of the PMLN government in Balochistan, its close-to-the-Army home minister resigning from the job. Prince Muhammad is telling the Sharifs to adjust to the roadmap of the GHQ and not rock the boat with protest movements. If Shahbaz looks upbeat after his return from Saudi Arabia, it figures, doesn’t it?