“In 1982, a formal agreement was signed and the Saudi Pakistan Armed Forces Organization (SPAFO) headquarters was established at Riyadh. Pakistani troops were stationed at Tabuk and Khamis Mushayet. An armored brigade group was stationed at Tabuk from 1982 to 1988. It was a complete formation deputed for three years, and two brigades rotated in 1982-1985 and 1985-1988. Initially, Major General Shamsur Rahman Kallu (later Lieutenant General) was appointed to the SPFAO headquarters, but he never took charge, and the contingent was headed by a Brigadier-rank officer. The first commander was Brigadier Mehboob Alam (later Major General), who served from 1982-1985, and under him Colonel (later Brigadier) Saeed Ismat served as GSO-1Operations and Training. From 1985 to 1988, the Pakistani armored brigade was commanded by Brigadier Jahangir Karamat (later General and Pakistan army Chief).” By the time the 1990s rolled in, Hasaan notes, protection by Pakistani troops became redundant in view of the presence of a large number of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1993.
According to Hasaan, the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoyed a close relationship for more than two decades. During and in the aftermath of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the main focus of cooperation shifted to dealing with the Arab extremists and Saudi militants who shuttled between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But details of this cooperation were kept largely under wraps.
In addition, many Pakistanis, among other foreigners, served in Bahrain’s police, National Guard and armed forces. Recently in Bahrain, when large-scale protests against the ruling Sunni dynasty in a Shia-majority nation broke open, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, approved the dispatch of some 4,000 soldiers, mostly from Saudi Arabia, to Bahrain. Bahraini foreign minister, Khalid Bin Ahmed al Khalifa, visited Islamabad in March 2011, and the commander of Bahrain’s National Guards, Lieutenant General Sheikh Mohammad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa, visited Pakistan in December 2010 and June 2011. Defence cooperation between the two countries was the main subject during the talks. According to Abul Hasaan, no exact data is available, but some estimate that a few thousand Pakistanis are now serving in Bahrain’s police, National Guards and armed forces. A small Pakistani contingent (about the strength of a battalion) was already serving in Bahrain long before the protests started.
A small Pakistani contingent was already serving in Bahrain long before the protests started.
Beyond the security cooperation, Hasaan provides a picture of the growing impact of Saudi money in changing the religious/social face of Pakistan. Until the late 1970s, in Sind, Punjab and Azad Kashmir, 70 percent of the mosques belonged to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t (Sufis), 21 percent belonged to the Deobandi sect, 7 percent belonged to the Shias, and just 1 percent belonged to the Salafis. The rest were of other Islamic sects. In Frontier and Baluchistan provinces, 52 percent of the mosques belonged to the Deobandi sect, 40 percent belonged to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t, 6 percent belonged to the Shias, 1 percent belonged to the Salafis, and the rest belonged to other sects.
“The demography of mosques within Pakistan has changed significantly since then,” Hasaan explains. “Currently, in Sind, Punjab, and Azad Kashmir, more than 55 percent of the mosques belong to the Deobandi, 30 percent belong to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t, 6 percent belong to Salafis, and 8 percent belong to the Shi’a. In the Frontier and Baluchistan provinces, 60 percent of the mosques belong to the Deobandi, 20 percent belong to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t, 10 percent belong to Salafis, 8 percent belong to Shi’a and the rest belong to others.
“Until the late 1970s, the mosques located at the armed forces bases (i.e., Army, Air Force and Navy) were 90 percent Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t (Sufi), 8 percent Deobandi, and 0 percent Salafi. Currently, 85 percent of the mosques are Deobandi or Salafi, and less than 10 percent are Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t,” states Hasaan. “This dramatic shift in mosque affiliations occurred due to the huge financial backing by the Wahhabi/Salafi organizations, the Government of Saudi Arabia and escalated propaganda by the Saudi government institutions against the beliefs of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jama’t. When Muslims go to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage, they are brainwashed by the employees of the Saudi government, who openly preach and force Wahhabi/Salafi beliefs on pilgrims. They spend millions of dollars on the distribution of Salafi/Wahhabi literature around the globe.