March 20, 2014 Special Dispatch No. 5690

Pakistani Media Reports: 'Pakistan Will Provide … 30,000 Troops For The Defense Shield Force Of The Gulf Cooperation Council'; 'During The Arab Spring, Bahrain … Hired The Services Of Retired [Pakistani] Military And Police Officials To Quell The Revolt'

March 20, 2014
Bahrain, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bangladesh | Special Dispatch No. 5690

A report in Roznama Dunya says Pakistan will provide 30,000 troops to GCC

On March 18, 2014, the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, arrived in Pakistan on a three-day visit, which was seen as a move by the Sunni regime of Bahrain to seek military assistance from Pakistan to curb growing protests by the Shia majority in the country. The delegation comprised Bahrain's top leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Mubarak bin Hamad Al-Khalifa; Chairman of the House of Representatives Khalifa bin Ahmed Al-Dhahrani; Chairman of the Shura Council Ali bin Saleh; Lt. Gen. Sheikh Muhammad bin Isa Al-Khalifa; and Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Salman Al-Khalifa, among others.

It should be noted that in recent years Bahrain has witnessed protests by Shia Muslims, who constitute the kingdom's majority population. Currently, soldiers and policemen from Pakistan are hired by the rulers of Bahrain to protect the Sunni monarchy. In the recent past, there were incidents of Pakistani policemen being beaten up in Bahrain. In April 2011, MEMRI released a report titled "Pakistan's Blackwater – Recruitment of 'Mercenaries' for Deployment in Bahrain", which examined how Pakistan's active duty as well as retired security forces were hired by Pakistani jihad-advocating ex-servicemen societies, for deployment in Bahrain.[1]

The March 18-20 visit to Pakistan by Bahrain's King Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa was seen primarily as an attempt to boost bilateral military cooperation, especially as the visit came soon after a visit by Saudi rulers which was also meant to boost Pakistan-Saudi defense cooperation. In February, it emerged that Saudi Arabia had sought Pakistani military forces and weapons for use in Syria.[2]

On the subject of the Bahraini king's visit to Pakistan, a number of Pakistani writers and columnists warned Pakistan against supporting the Sunni regimes in the Middle East. On Twitter, noted columnist Raza Rumi warned: "the day is not far when Pakistan will be a member of the Monarchies' Commonwealth – Al Bakistan, Saudi Arabia, & Bahrain!"[3] The name "Al Bakistan" is a pun on Pakistan becoming an Arab country, as the letter "P" isn't available in Arabic and is instead rendered as a "B." Blogger Nilofer Afridi Qazi tweeted: "Pakistan, Bahrain agree to enhance military relationship? What does that mean? We will support suppression of Shia rights/democratic movement?"[4] In a tweet, journalist Raja Arsalan Khan reminded that Pakistan's General Zia-ul-Haq had early in his career led a Jordanian force to crush the Palestinians: "#Pakistan will cooperate with #Bahrain in defense sector. Are we going to reproduce the job executed by #Zia in #Jordan."[5]

Roznama Dunya Report: "Bahraini King's Visit To Pakistan Should Be Seen In The Context Of The Middle East As The Region … Where The Shias Are In Majority, And In Conflict With The Sunnis [Who Control Regimes]"

According to a report in Roznama Dunya, Pakistan will provide 30,000 Pakistani troops for the defense of the Sunni regimes in the Gulf. The report quoted Saudi Arabia-based Pakistani columnist Rashid Hussain as saying that in the Gulf "there is a buzz that in order to reduce tension in the region, Pakistan will provide at least 30,000 troops for the defense shield force of the Gulf Cooperation Council, though the officials of the Pakistani foreign ministry are describing the current visit of the king of Bahrain as purely related to trade and business."[6]

Currently, bilateral trade between Bahrain and Pakistan stands at $40 million, which is in favor of Bahrain by $8 million dollars, the report noted. According to the report, international affairs expert Dr. Ejaz Hussain said that the "Bahraini king's visit to Pakistan should be seen in the context of the Middle East as the region is rich with Bahraini oil where the Shias are in majority, and in conflict with the Sunnis [who control regimes]."[7]

While the Pakistani government has sought to discourage media reports that Pakistan's engagement with Bahrain is aimed at defense cooperation, The News, a leading English-language Pakistani newspaper, headlined its report: "Pakistan, Bahrain agree to enhance military ties."[8] The Urdu-language Roznama Jang published a report titled: "Pakistan, Bahrain Agree To Boost Military Cooperation; 15 Agreements And 2 Pacts Signed."[9] Roznama Express, an Urdu-language daily, carried a front-page headline: "The Bahraini King Visits The Joint Staff Headquarters, Agreement To Boost Military Cooperation."

The Express Tribune: "Pakistan Had … Helped Bahrain Set Up Its Naval Forces, And 18 Percent Of The Gulf State's Air Force Comprises Pakistani Personnel"; "Almost 10,000 Pakistanis Are Serving In Security Services Of Bahrain"

The following are excerpts from a report by The Express Tribune, a liberal Pakistani daily, on the visit of the Bahraini king:[10]

"Pakistan and Bahrain discussed expanding their existing defense cooperation after high-level talks held at the Joint Staff headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Wednesday [March 19, 2014]. King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa … visited the Joint Staff headquarters, where he was received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with the chiefs of the three services, including Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.

"During their formal talks, the countries discussed options to strengthen their defense and security cooperation. Historically, Pakistan and Bahrain enjoy strong defense ties. Pakistan had reportedly helped Bahrain set up its naval forces, and 18 percent of the Gulf state's air force comprises Pakistani personnel. It is estimated that almost 10,000 Pakistanis are serving in security services of Bahrain. During the Arab Spring, Bahrain is believed to have hired the services of retired military and police officials [from Pakistan] to quell the revolt.

"According to the official statement issued after the talks, the King of Bahrain lauded the professional competence, training, and courage of the defense forces of Pakistan. He said Pakistani armed forces have rendered matchless sacrifices for the defense of the country."


[1] See MEMRI's Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 682, Pakistan's Blackwater – Recruitment of 'Mercenaries' for Deployment in Bahrain, April 6, 2011. The original English of all quotes used in this dispatch has been mildly edited for clarity and standardization.

[2] See MEMRI's Special Dispatches Series No. 5639, Pakistani Dailies: Saudi Arabia Has Asked Pakistan To Dispatch Two Army Divisions To The Kingdom, February 10, 2014. Also see, The New Indian Express, Saudi-Pakistan Threat To India, March 11, 2014.

[3], March 19, 2014.

[4], March 20, 2014.

[5], March 2014.

[6] Roznama Dunya (Pakistan), March 20, 2014.

[7] Roznama Dunya (Pakistan), March 20, 2014.

[8] The News (Pakistan), March 20, 2014.

[9] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), March 20, 2014.

[10] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), March 20, 2014.

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