Hotel in Riyadh where princes are reportedly being held (image courtesy: Roznama Ummat.)
Following the early November arrests of 11 Saudi princes – among them billionaire investor Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, four ministers, and dozens of former ministers, concern was expressed in Pakistan's Urdu media regarding likely instability in Saudi Arabia and the possible advantages this instability might present for Iran. .
Given below are excerpts from editorials and reports appearing in Urdu-language media:
Editorial In Urdu Daily: "Saudi Arabia At Present Faces Hostility Based On [Sunni-Shia] Sectarianism From The Gulf Countries Around It, Of Which Iran Is At The Top"
An editorial in the Urdu daily Roznama Islam, which leans toward Islamism, stated:
"After the fresh measures [i.e. arrests], it is natural that questions and concerns about the internal stability of Saudi Arabia would arise. And this is the reason a wave of serious concern is found across the Islamic world regarding peace and stability in Saudi Arabia. The world of Islam is already mired in the smog of conflict and disintegration. Many Islamic countries are caught in civil war and conflicts due to the folly of their own people and the mischief of others. In such a situation, one cannot imagine how destructive and heart-breaking it can be if a country like Saudi Arabia – which is the heart of the world of Islam and repository of the Holy Mosques – is somehow caught in internal instability. Therefore, we understand that for the unity integrity and unity of [the Saudi] state, the Saudi royal family, the government, the Islamic scholars, and the common people should demonstrate wisdom and farsightedness [in expressing their stance on the issue]."
An editorial in Roznama Ummat, an Islamist Urdu daily, observed:
"The probability of extreme reaction from the government opponents who were removed is less because ever since the House of Saud established its rule [in the newly established Saudi Arabia in the mid-18th century], an extreme orthodox culture prevails here, and coups cannot germinate easily. [Additionally,] the government knows well how to handle [it] were anyone to raise their head... The real situation of Saudi Arabia is such that Western culture and worldly luxuries are so visible in the private lives of all members [of the ruling elite] that it is meaningless to engage in the debate about a moderate, Islamic, modern, and progressive culture there. The [elite's] extreme orthodoxy is all for the society outside their lives. An effort is being made to break that too [thereby allowing liberalization for the masses]...
"Due to the [presence of the] Holy Mosques, the enemies of Islam cannot muster the courage to target the Saudi state. They cannot attract the antagonism of the Muslims who constitute about one fourth of the world's population. One of the reasons for this is also the fact that the Saudi rulers, due to their private matters, have established cordial relations with all non-Muslim countries, especially the West. Their countless wealth, properties and assets are in foreign countries and the banks there...
"This is a big reality: that in addition to America, the West and other countries, the country's masses and Islamic clerics support the recent decisions of the Saudi government. More than the non-Muslims [i.e. non-Muslim countries] and [Saudi Arabia's] own inhabitants, Saudi Arabia at present faces hostility based on [Sunni-Shi'ite] sectarianism from the Gulf countries around it, of which Iran is at the top. It wants to thrust its [Shi'ite] viewpoint on the entire Muslim world based on its wealth, manpower, and weapons. Iran-supported individuals and groups are seen engaged in attacks and other operations against the [Sunni] opponents of their sects in several countries, including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. The fresh example of this is Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was forced to resign and take shelter in Saudi Arabia on November 5 due to the threats to his life from Iran and Hezbollah..."
Islamic Scholar Mufti Muhammad Naeem: "The Beginning Of Conspiracies Against The Stable Islamic Countries [Like Saudi Arabia] Has Started"
Mufti Muhammad Naeem, leading Islamic scholar and chancellor of the Karachi-based Jamia Binoria Alamia madrassa, urged the Saudi king to make considered decisions and stated:
"The beginning of conspiracies against the stable Islamic countries [like Saudi Arabia] has started. Saudi Arabia's internal situations are a cause of concern for the entire Islamic world... Now, there is a need for Muslim rulers to unite and evolve a strategy. If the international anti-Islam forces can unite against Muslims, why not the Muslim countries... Under the conspiracy of 9/11, Islamic countries marching toward stability were ambushed and an attempt was made to crush Muslims by force [in the name of the war on terror]. Now, an attempt is being made to fell the Islamic countries that are standing on their feet..."
Pakistan Ulema Council: "Islamic Scholars Are Every Moment With The Government And People Of Saudi Arabia For The Integrity And Defense Of The Land Of The Holy Mosques"
According to a report in the Urdu daily Roznama Express, Islamic clerics associated with the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) expressed full support for the Saudi government:
"They said that the target of the Islam-enemy forces is the land of the Holy Mosques [in Mecca and Medina]. Several times the Houthi rebels have targeted the land of Saudi Arabia. The Islamic world and the Islamic ummah will never tolerate the forces trying to create lawlessness and conflict in the land of the Holy Mosques. They said that the Pakistani nation and Islamic scholars are every moment with the government and people of Saudi Arabia for the integrity and defense of the land of the Holy Mosques. The leaders [i.e. Islamic clerics] described the new laws [i.e. arrests] against corruption in Saudi Arabia as a step in the right direction, and said that nations move toward progress and pinnacle by ending corruption. The beginning of accountability [measures] by the Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be a cause for betterment in Saudi Arabia."
These Islamic scholars associated with the Pakistan Ulema Council included: Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Maulana Muhammad Ayub Safdar, Maulana Abdul Karim Nadeem, Maulana Abdul Hameed Watoo, Maulana Abdul Haq Mujahid, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana Muhammad Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana Muhammad Shafi Qasmi, and Maulana Asad Zakaria, among others.
Former Pakistan Army Chief General Aslam Beg: "Iran Is Deriving A Benefit From This In The Middle East And The Gulf; This Situation In Saudi Arabia Is Extremely Suitable For Iran"
According to a report in the Urdu daily Roznama Dunya, former Pakistan Army Chief General Mirza Aslam Beg described the arrests as "alarming" and said:
"This dangerous development in Saudi Arabia will have consequences... Such a sweeping crackdown against corruption is not merely against corruption. In fact, if these arrests and changes at high-level [government positions] are connected to the important changes carried out in the recent past, it will become clear that a lava is cooking in the Saudi royal family against the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman... Due to the liberal economic policies of the Saudi crown prince, there is a strong reaction in the religious and royal elite holding a specific [orthodox] religious viewpoint.
"Iran is deriving a benefit from this in the Middle East and the Gulf. This situation in Saudi Arabia is extremely suitable for Iran. On the one hand, a silent revolution is underway against the Saudi kingship in the border areas of Saudi Arabia; on the other, extreme differences in the royal family have emerged to the fore which itself is not good with regard to Saudi Arabia, including the world of Islam. And we [the Pakistani leadership] will have to consider the situation seriously and play a role for betterment rather than jumping headlong into it..."