Saudi Arabia has issued an ultimatum to Pakistan to categorically choose between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over their major diplomatic dispute. Pakistan is standing its ground, however, and refuses to take sides.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met n Jedda on Monday where Saudi’s leader issued the ultimatum. Salman directly asked Sharif: “Are you with us or with Qatar?”
Saudi Arabia decided earlier this month to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, brought by Qatar’s unwillingness to sever relations with Saudi’s regional rival, Iran. Riyadh imposed a total blockade that sparked a humanitarian crisis in Qatar. Turkey stepped in to back Qatar. Saudi has issued an ultimatum to allies and neighbors to cut ties with Qatar, too. Shortly after the visit of President Donald Trump in Saudi last month, Saudi Arabia was joined by Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in cutting ties with Qatar over accusations that Doha was sponsoring terrorism in the region. Pakistan, for its part, mostly kept quiet amidst Saudi’s efforts to isolate Qatar.
Pakistan is a U.S. ally, however, it is frequently being accused of funding terrorism. It is also involved in disputes with neighbors Afghanistan and India, which both accuse it of offering support to hardline Sunni Muslim militant groups such as the Taliban and Lashkar- e- Taiba. The U.S. has in the past also turned against Pakistan after Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden had been discovered to have been hiding in Abbottabad. It would take several years after that for the U.S. and Pakistan to resume military cooperation. Just last year, former President Barack Obama proposed more than a $1billion in civilian and military aid for Pakistan. President Trump is currently considering major cuts to such aid.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Trump has asked about the U.S. level of support and funding to Pakistan. Trump’s emerging foreign policy may have also urged Islamabad to agree to exert its influence on Qatar and to resolve the crisis among the Arab Gulf states.