Media’s role in future Pak-Saudi relations
By: Ashraf Mumtaz
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have the best possible relations. About half a million Pakistanis visit the kingdom every year to perform Haj or Umra. And a large number of Pakistanis are working there and sending remittances back home.
The closeness of ties between the two countries can be gauged from the fact that when Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in May 1998, the success was also celebrated by Saudi Arabia. Pakistan’s capability in the nuclear field was a source of strength for the oil-rich state and it rightly concluded that the nuclear field was not the exclusive domain of non-Muslims.
The Sharif family has, perhaps, very good relations with Saudi Arabia and it was for this reason that the kingdom had played an important role in rescuing Mian Nawaz Sharif when he was being tried by courts after being overthrown by Gen Musharraf. The PML-N chief spent seven years in exile in the kingdom, during which period he got further closer to the royal family.
It is said that the Saudi monarch called Mr Sharif as his ‘full brother’.
Mr Sharif set up a steel mill in Jeddah, for which he was given interest-free loan by the Saudi government.
Ties between the two countries were not very friendly during the PPP rule. The Saudi authorities did not like President Zardari because of his public image and corruption charges against him.
However, now that Mr Sharif is back as prime minister, there is hope that relations between the two countries would improve. Pakistan also expects financial assistance from the kingdom to be able to overcome its economic and energy problems.
The warmth of government-to-government relations is not seen at the public level. And if the two sides want to maintain good relations, Saudi media should review its policy towards Pakistan.
At present, most of the news about Pakistan published by Saudi newspapers come from Western agencies and they are always negative. Majority of the news are about terrorist activities going on in Pakistan. Seldom is any positive news seen in the Saudi papers.
Arab News and Saudi Gazette, the two English language papers, rely on the news fed by Western agencies. Same is the case with the Arabic language media. The only newspaper which gives rather wider coverage to events in Pakistan is Urdu News. But this is a newspaper for Urdu-speaking people from Pakistan, India and elsewhere. The Saudis have no interest in what this paper publishes or doesn’t publish.
The younger Saudi generation which forms its opinion of Pakistan based on Western news agencies will not form positive views of it.
If the Saudi media did not involve people from Pakistan as correspondents or sub-editors and covered positive things about the Islamic Republic as well, it is hard to expect better people-to-people ties in future. But Pakistanis will continue to love Saudi Arabia as it’s the birthplace of Islam.
THREE EPISODES: The writer was entering Holy K’aba when a father and a son were going ahead of me. The son was asking many questions from his father, unaware of what he should say or not say in view of the sanctity of the place. The father was reticent in his answers.
“Bachay Ghair Siasi Hotay Hein”, I said to myself. This is a sentence Dr Younas Butt uses in his famous entertainment programme on a TV to highlight the outspokenness of children and the embarrassment of their addressees.
It was just a coincidence that after 10 seconds I met Dr Younas who was also in Masjid Al-Haram.
While performing tawaf, I saw a very aged woman among the crowd. Her back was bent to a level that she could not see above. Still, she was dragging a small chair with one hand, and a small bag on her other shoulder.
I thought that I should help the woman by holding her chair. Such a gesture would have made it easier for her to perform tawaf. But the moment I touched her chair, she started crying “Hasbe Yallah” (Allah is enough for me). I immediately withdrew myself, impressed by her strong faith in Allah.
This has a lesson for many who seek help from others even for petty things.
At a food point in Makkah, there was a poor man, who looked like a beggar. His nose was running. So unclean he looked that nobody would like to stand by him. He had tea in a disposable cup. Somebody went to him and offered some Riyals to help him. However, the man threw away the Riyals with contempt and also said something in Arabic which the giver did not understand. The angry reaction showed that the man’s self-respect had been hurt.
But the most unfortunate thing was that three Pakistani women beggars there jumped on Riyals and insisted that the man should give the same to them. Fearing that the ‘aggressive beggars’ would tear his clothes in case he did not oblige them, he gave in. However, he spent quite some time on comparing the self-respect of the poor old man and the shamelessness of three healthy women.
TAIL PIECE: Zamzam is Allah’s gift which the Muslims can get from Saudi Arabia. However, it has been turned into a business. Hotels provide the holy water to pilgrims at exorbitant rates. This year, cylindrical bottles have been introduced for Zamzam. And one bottle is priced at as high as 20 Riyals.
It would be a lot better if one bottle of Zamzam is provided free of cost by the Saudi government to every pilgrim. It can be handed over to them at the airports on their return to their countries.
Such a step would save the pilgrims from businessmen and middlemen who are charging them heavily.–(CONCLUDED)