The Saudi-Pakistan nexus

The Tribune, Only jehadis have gained, by G. Parthasarathy

WHEN Saudi Arabia’s ruler King Fahd died after a prolonged illness on August 1, his last rites were performed according to strict and austere Wahabi traditions. But one person who reacted as though his beloved uncle had died and mourned publicly, was Pakistan’s General Musharraf, who promptly declared one week’s state mourning and became the first non-Arab ruler of a Muslim country to rush to Saudi Arabia for the last rites of the Saudi monarch.

What prompted this show of grief and solidarity by General Musharraf who had visited Saudi Arabia only a few weeks earlier? Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are now in the same boat on issues of global terrorism. The ISI continues to provide support to the Taliban and jihadi groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose cadres are being arrested worldwide for inciting and promoting terrorism. There is also evidence that Saudi “charities” like the Al Harmain Islamic Foundation, the International Institute for Islamic Thought and the International Islamic Relief Organisation continue to fund extremist and terrorist activities worldwide, undermining peace and harmony in pluralistic societies.   

King Abdullah, who has just ascended the throne in Saudi Arabia, is respected as a moderate. The same, however, cannot be said of other members of the royal family, including those of the powerful Sudairi clan who have controlled the levers of power and defied Abdullah even when he was the kingdom’s de facto ruler. Influential royals of the Sudairi clan like the Governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman, have funded extremist Islamist causes worldwide. Prince Salman channeled large funds to Islamic extremist groups in Bosnia. He also provided arms and training to Chechen rebels. King Fahd’s “favourite” son, Prince Abdul Aziz (popularly known as Azouzi), sent millions of dollars through a known associate of Osama bin Laden to “slaughter Russian soldiers and civilians alike” in Chechnya. Azouzi also transferred huge sums of money to countries like Germany, Spain and the US for Wahabi Islamic causes that preach hatred of the West.

His love for opulence is such that he was permitted by an indulgent father to spend $4.6 billion for constructing a palace outside Riyadh. One of America’s leading experts, Mr Robert Baer, who was formerly in the CIA, states that Saudi Arabia is ruled by “an increasingly bankrupt, criminal, dysfunctional royal family that is hated by the people it rules.’’

Rather than coming down heavily on the Saudi elite after 9/11, the Bush Administration has chosen to tread cautiously. Humanitarian causes dear to influential people like Mrs Barbara Bush and Mrs Nancy Reagan have been funded by the Saudi royals. Influential Americans like Vice-President Dick Cheney, Mr George Schultz, Mr James Baker, Mr Colin Powell and Dr Henry Kissinger have all been associated with companies like the Carlyle Group and Haliburton that deal extensively with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis are estimated to have invested over $500 billion in the US. They remain a major buyer of American arms and are the largest supplier of oil to the US. They have also played ball with the Americans in keeping global oil prices at levels that the Americans find acceptable. But while the Bush Administration has avoided public criticism of the links of Saudi royals with international terrorism, American writers like Robert Baer, Gerald Posner and Craig Unger have been given access to information about their terrorist links.
Gerald Posner recently revealed that when the FBI captured a top Al-Qaeda terrorist, Abu Zubaydah in Faisalabad, Zubaydah revealed that his contacts in Saudi Arabia were Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a wealthy royal with a passion for race horses, Prince Sultan bin Turki al Saud, a nephew of King Fahd, and Prince Fahd bin Turki, another relative of the monarch. Zubaydah told his American interrogators that the royal family struck a deal with Al-Qaeda for the latter not to target it. He also revealed that Prince Ahmed was informed beforehand that Al-Qaeda was planning to strike on American targets on September 11, 2001.

Zubaydah further revealed that Al-Qaeda had also struck a deal with the Pakistani military. Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir was informed of the impending attacks on the US on 9/11. The Bush Administration has remained silent on these allegations. More ominously, Prince Ahmed died mysteriously in his sleep a few weeks after Zubaydah’s revelations. His cousin Prince Sultan bin Turki died the next day in a “car accident”. Prince Fahd bin Turki died mysteriously a week later of “thirst” while he was said to be driving in the desert. Finally, Air Chief Marshal Mir died in a mysterious air crash in Pakistan. According to Posner, the air crash is believed to have been an act of sabotage.

Just as Pakistan and China are partners in nuclear and missile proliferation, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are partners in global terrorism. Mosques and jihadi-oriented madarsas in both countries spout anti-western venom. Terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba have links in Saudi Arabia. This is evident from the phone calls made by Lashkar militants operating in India to contacts in Saudi Arabia. But the Pakistani-Saudi nexus goes beyond terrorism. The Petroleum Intelligence Weekly reported in July 2000 that Saudi Arabia was sending 150,000 barrels of oil per day virtually free of cost to Pakistan. Such supplies, currently valued at $3.2 billion annually, continue.
Robert Baer has reported that the US has known about nuclear cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since 1994. Defence Minister Prince Sultan was given unprecedented access to Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in Kahuta in May 1999. Dr. A.Q. Khan visited Saudi Arabia shortly thereafter. According to Pakistani writer Amir Mir, General Musharraf’s visit to Saudi Arabia on June 25-26 was primarily to discuss how to deny the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to information about the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia nuclear nexus. Saudi Arabia is resisting pressures to adhere to the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, a Protocol that Iran has been compelled to accept.

Saudi Arabia has been a consistent supporter in the OIC of Pakistan’s protégés in the Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir. One, however, sincerely hopes that King Abdullah will avoid going down the path chosen by General Musharraf. No country can insulate itself from the inevitable consequences of sponsoring jihad and extremism abroad while piously proclaiming its abhorrence of such causes. Words necessarily have to be matched by deeds.
(11 August 2005)

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