[Host:] During the Crown Prince’s (Mohammed Bin Salman) visit to Pakistan, he expressed hopes of striking deals for cooperation between the two countries. According to media reports, these deals that MBS intends to ink are worth over $20 billion. Observers said that this visit is an attempt to break the isolation that Mohammed Bin Salman experienced after that he was explicitly accused by international parties of being implicated in the assassination of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
Here to discuss these developments is the president of the Movement for Islamic Reform, the (Saudi) dissident Dr. Saad Al-Faqih. Dr. Saad Al-Faqih, let’s start with MBS’s visit to Pakistan. What’s your take on this visit, and what is the context of this visit?
Dr. Saad Al-Faqih:] Yes, The context is to break the isolation, as you mentioned. MBS wants to whitewash his image that is tainted with blood in the eyes of the world, and there is no ‘respectable’ country that will welcome him. His experience at the G20 Summit was disconcerting and embarrassing for him, because he was almost shunned by everyone. So, with whom is he going to try his luck? With poor African countries? That could prove ineffective.
So, he tried a bigger Islamic country like Pakistan, which has no scruples about being bought off. Imran Khan has himself acknowledged in his own words that he distinguishes between moral values and money. When he attended Davos summit, he said, “Yes, I am believer (Muslim), and I am against crime, etc, but we are poor and cash-strapped, and we’ve come to Saudi Arabia because of money.” He said it openly, he is known for being somewhat naive.
[Host:] So, will $20 billion buy off Pakistan’s stance? What can Pakistan offer for this amount, which seems tiny for Saudi Arabia?
[Dr. Saad Al-Faqih:] No, it’s not a tiny amount. $20 billion at this current time for Saudi Arabia– currently, Saudi Arabia is in debt to the tune of 100s of billions of dollars, so, this amount is big. But, this will not be useful on the international level. It will be useful in that it will satiate the narcissism of MBS. MBS is self-obsessed, and when he sees a big country welcoming him with pictures of him in the streets, and official holidays and massive preparations being made on the official level, and an attempt for galvanizing popular support, which of course was unsuccessful. So, this satisfies his egotism and makes him believe that he has surmounted the isolation that he was subjected to, and that he is now in a safer position.
The second objective is to satiate his jealousy, as he is jealous of the Qataris who were able to provide a platform for the Taliban to engage in negotiations with the Americans. So, he wants Pakistan to mediate between him and the Taliban, in order to convince the latter to pick Riyadh over Doha (Qatar).
[Host:] With regard to Pakistan’s relations with Iran, despite Pakistan finding itself in a difficult situation, and as you have stated, a poor country, but is militarily a powerful country in the region, and its relation with Iran is a strategic one. In your view, will MBS be able to turn Pakistan against Iran?
[Dr. Saad Al-Faqih:] Those informed about the situation in Pakistan say that this is impossible. Pakistan, on the military front, is not a puppet. He can coax certain trade, economic, and some political decisions out of Pakistan, but Pakistan will not change its strategic security and military relations with Iran based on MBS’s request.