By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
On god’s Little Earth there is never a dull moment. With over five billion people inhabiting the planet, with multiple time zones, castes, creeds and colours, love and hate, peace and war; turmoil and tranquillity are the orders of the day. Nature’s phenomenons are such what looks quiet on the surface may be building lava under the surface. There were reports of latent simmering since ages in the Royal Kingdom Saudi of Arabia. Never did one expect that things will happen sooner than expected. Sudden news of blitzkrieg action, arrests of 11 princes and scores of rich including 50th richest man in the world-Al Waleed- was nothing bolt from the blue.
This was perhaps the most sensational news from RKS following the permission to forbidden women to drive. It was sign of opening up of a state known in the West as one of the most oppressive, where prosperity was optic but all other things kept under the lid. All of a sudden anti-corruption drive launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meant that the change that was always resisted has now become inevitable. Previously any one who tried to disturb the status quo or disrupt the Bedouin pecking order was silenced.
Notwithstanding claims of enlightened despotism and divine right as the concepts for their writ, it was more of tribal customs and traditions while one expected there would be more enlightenment or Islamic social justice and welfare system of the yore. There was a time when poor and unemployed were given unemployment dole outs, while the mighty and the rich squandered money in casinos abroad outliving the most prodigal. Signs of economic meltdown suddenly looked scary. Massive retrenchment of expatriate workers- closing down of businesses, galloping unemployment, slashing of salaries, drastic cuts in funding of social welfare schemes-were nothing but manifestations of internal disorder, collapse and sure signs of impending implosion-possibly of civil war as some Western commentators are forecasting.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Death of King Abdullah proved to be a catalyst. His successor nominated by him was bypassed in favour of present King Salman in violation of the pecking order. The new King immediately after his accession started unraveling his scheme of things to re-establish Sudairi hold on absolute power in the Kingdom. Despite being old he perhaps wanted to bring change for the good of people. King’s nomination of his son Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS)-bypassing others as Crown Prince seems to have put the last nail in the old order.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman-32- is reputed to be no non-sense man. One has not heard stories of any extravaganza about him, nor have there been any tales of Arabian nights. And the good news is he is modern and he wants “to revert back” to moderate Islam, perhaps as humane as it was in its initial days. One hopes he will usher in an order that would guarantee Islamic equality to all its citizens- irrespective of caste, creed, colour or gender.
MBS’ blitzkrieg action within hours of the appointment of Anti-Corruption Committee leading to crackdown against the corrupt-whether princes or the rich, well connected and with enormous power of the wealth suspected to have been collected or earned by means other than legitimate- definitely is earthshaking, causing ripples internationally, the on-goings so far heard apparently mean domestic clean sweeping of the Augean stables, to outsiders it is much more than meets the eye. An over ambitious Crown Prince wants to have the cake and eat too.
However, the sound of death knell finally of the old order is being clearly heard when it is said that Prince Muqrin bin Muqrin who should have been the King if the traditional pecking order was followed, was killed in a mysterious helicopter crash near the Yemeni border just when Crown Prince Salman’s blitzkrieg had started. Yet more intriguing has been the death ofPrince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd – killed during a firefight as authorities attempted to arrest him. His death has been confirmed by the Saudi royal court but circumstances remain unknon.
Both Duran and Al-Masdar News report that Prince Aziz (44)-youngest son of late King Fahd, died when his security contingent got into a firefight with regime’s gunmen attempting to make his arrest. The Duran Report points out that Prince Abdul Aziz was deeply involved in Saudi Oger Ltd, a company which until it ceased operations in the summer of this year, was owned by the Hariri family, former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in charge of the company until it ceased operations. Cause of Saad’s resignation tendered in Riyadh coincides with the death of Prince Abdul Aziz and the crackdown on the corrupt in the Royal Kingdom.
Sections of Saudi population have welcomed the crackdown. They had become wary of scandals of princes for extracting huge commissions in various deals by jacking up the contractual prices of products and purchasing of plants or whatever business where money could be made. Arms purchases from America, UK, France, Sweden etc could not be made without big commissions to the high and mighty. While in Saudi Arabia it did not matter but when scandals of commission being taken by government functionaries broke out in UK, quite a few heads rolled. In the anti-corruption drive the wealthiest among the corrupt rich is billionaire Al Waleed-50th richest man in the world. He was picked up from his desert camp and the authorities did not disclose the allegations that prompted the action against him. Whatever-his arrest would surely have its implications-big of small-in the international market, so would the overall action cause its ripples globally.
The establishment of 34-country coalition army has been the brainchild of the Crown Prince who seems to be in a hurry to bring changes in the Gulf according to his vision. Escalation with Iran, pinpricking of Qatar, deeper involvement in Yemen, Syria and Iraq-all are related to his scheme of things. Howsoever well-meaning he might be, the instant support that he has received from American President Donald Trump make matters shady.
While Pakistani government is busy 24/7 in doing its best to rescue its deposed prime minister from the judicial lock-jaw, others who matter including the Parliament should assess the impact of Saudi developments especially on the economy. Prognosis is ominously alarming. The only positive factor that one can see in Saudi anti-corruption from our common man’s point is the major set back for both Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf. MNS would now not get the Saudi support that he previously received for his corruption, nor Saroor Palace in case he has to go in exile. And no more easy money would come to the ‘Bhagora General’ as gift from RKS to put him in style in London.
Whatever- since Saudis are our brothers who stand by us in bad times and the Royal Family guardians of Hamreen Sharifeen- we hope God will guide Prince Salman on the correct path, to make him do good for his people and unite the Ummah to join hands for the common weal of over billion Muslims. Conflicts between Sunnis and Shias be buried for all times so that a unified effort could be made to eliminate the pagans who style themselves as Islamists and have been spreading terrorism. One prays that the Prince-dynamic as he seems to be-will enforce God’s dictum that there should be no compulsion in religion.
Last but not the least one expects a reformist movement from Saudi Arabia in which secularism as godliness is accepted. That would mean translating into action what Allah, the most compassionate as Raabul Alamein -Raab of entire human kind and not Muslimeen only that’s why He made His last Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) Rehmatul Alamein- Rehmat for the entire humankind as a manifestation of His last prophet.
(The author is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK, Advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and a veteran