Will Pakistan get caught in “Saudi-Iranian turf war?”

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s main opposition party is demanding a transparent discussion in parliament over the origins of $1.5 billion paid into the country’s coffers in March, and what the government agreed to in exchange for the funds.

The money is widely believed to have come from Saudi Arabia — a donation aimed at cementing a new and potentially controversial security deal with the nuclear armed south Asian country.

Pakistan’s liquid foreign currency reserves unexpectedly swelled to about $9.5 billion dollars in early March. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has refused to name the country which provided the funds, saying only that it came from a “friendly Islamic country” to support Pakistan’s weak economy.

Officials at Pakistan’s central bank confirmed that the money came from Saudi Arabia, and the government’s opponents want a full explanation.


Pakistan's Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif attends the opening session of a Nuclear Summit in The Hague
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif attends the opening session of a Nuclear Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, March 24, 2014.

Sharif’s refusal to be more transparent on the terms of the Saudi cash infusion has only fueled skepticism over the motives behind it.


Defense experts note Pakistan’s long security relationship with Saudi Arabia, which in the past has seen Islamabad deploy troops to the kingdom.

“In the 1980s, Pakistani troops served in places like Tabuk (in Saudi Arabia) and the (Pakistani) troops served in Saudi uniforms. That deployment was part of Pakistan’s defense agreement with Saudi Arabia,” explains defense analyst Farooq Hameed Khan, a retired Brigadier in the Pakistani army. “There is nothing new about Pakistan having a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia which involves Pakistani troops serving there.”

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