As the protest movement in Bahrain gains strength, authorities have responded with massive arrests and sentenced four protest leaders to death. This brutal repression has been exercised with the help of mercenary defense contractors fromPakistan’s Fauji Foundation and Bahria. These organizations follow the same model as the much-despised American contracting firms like Blackwater and CACI. And while there is indignation at the thought of these companies operating within Pakistan, the same resentment does not follow when Pakistani contractors are used against peaceful protestors abroad. This reveals the Double-Standard Defense strategy adopted byPakistan, where it lambastes the U.S.military, while adopting some of its strategies.
During last week’s protests, Bahrani dissidents chanted “The Police are Pakistani,” and there have been several instances of Pakistanis being attacked by mobs, leading to a few deaths. Though some Pakistanis who travel to the Gulf have long-complain about the racist undertones against non-Arabs, these have exploded into an all-out assault on some Pakistani communities. Such behavior is as unacceptable as the discrimination practiced by the al-Khalifa Royal family against Shiites inBahrain, because it is based on an individual’s background instead of their actions.
However, the Bahraini protestors are angered by Pakistani presence in their nation, as Pakistanis reject the presence of the U.S.in theirs. They both produce similar arguments as well, the first of which is that foreign militaries are engaging in secretive operations to influence the events of the other country. These claims gained credibility in Pakistan after the Raymond Davis incident, where a CIA agent’s identity was revealed after he shot two people. The U.S.government felt the ire of the Pakistani Army and populace for several weeks thereafter, as tensions between the two partners have worsened since the incident.
Yet,Pakistan’s military fails to find the irony of decrying CIA presence in their country, while training and sending secret agents to subvert the events of another. Allegations have been made that the ISI has stationed agents and trainers inBahrain, as a product of Pakistan’s subservient relationship to the Saudi Arabians. As the Saudis feel they have much to lose if Bahrain’s regime falls, their Pakistani servants are dispatched to arrest and detain protestors. Due to the fear of a domino effect in theGulf States,Saudi Arabia has deployed several thousands of its own security forces toBahrain, many of whom are directly trained by Pakistani military personnel. Though a Raymond Davis-type situation has not revealed the interference of Pakistan’s military against the democratic protests, there is a high likelihood thatPakistan is acting under its alliance to the Saudis in assisting repression in one way or another.
The second claim of double-standard defense is made by Pakistanis and relates to the existence of private defense contractors around every corner and behind terrorist attack. Companies in theU.S.like Xe, formerly called Blackwater, and CACI have earned billions of dollars from the government by employing a cadre of ex-soldiers. Due to their lack of affiliation to theU.S.military, these groups often act with in violation of international and local laws, and have been rejected by Afghans and Pakistanis alike.
Yet,Pakistan’s Fauji Foundation office for Overseas Employment Services has adopted a similar strategy: creating contracts withGulf Statesto provide ex-servicemen who can assume the responsibility of actual soldiers and security officials. This has resulted in claims of terrible brutality by mercenary soldiers; where protestors inManamaclaimed that many of the security officials slaughtering citizens were speaking Urdu. Indeed, this claim can be more easily verified than the claims of direct ISI involvement because the Fauji Foundation printed advertisements in March in Dawn, one of Pakistan’s largest newspapers. These advertisements requested up to 800 ex-servicemen to sign up for deployment as “riot-police and trainers” working under the Bahraini security authorities.
The plan to involve Pakistanis in a brutal repression in a foreign land will carry grave effects due to the economic significance of Bahrainand otherGulf StatesonPakistan. Much of Pakistan’s economy is based on remittances from workers inGulf States. However, if Pakistanis are seen as the face of the regime’s oppression, survival in the country will be far less likely for them. If an exodus of Pakistani foreign workers does occur from the Gulf States due to increased discrimination, this would greatly harmPakistan’s economic future.
Thus, even thoughPakistanabhors the actions of theU.S.military and its associated corporations, it adopts these same practices itself. Pakistani military leaders criticize the CIA for stationing secret agents in the nation and expound upon the threat posed by private mercenary contractors. The same allegations have been made by protestors inBahrainwho say they are facing the bullets of ISI agents and Pakistani mercenaries. Yet, if Pakistan’s leadership reflects on the damage done to its relationship with theU.S.due to the actions of the CIA and American mercenary contractors, it should realize that a post-Khalifa Bahrain will be an instant and enraged enemy.