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Pakistanis in Bahrain

March 21, 2011


IS it advisable to continue to recruit Pakistanis for Bahrain's security forces at a time when the anti-monarchy stir shows no sign of abating? Pakistanis have been working in oil-rich Arab countries for decades, contributing to the host countries' development and sending billions in foreign exchange back home. This helps ease pressure on the acute unemployment position at home, with Pakistanis abroad working in diverse positions — from unskilled labourers to white-collar workers. However, the situation in Manama warrants a serious review of our recruitment policies because of the hatred towards Pakistanis serving in the Bahrain police. So far enraged mobs have killed four Pakistanis, two of them policemen, who were lynched in Pearl Square by angry protesters. The latter continued to kick and mutilate their bodies long after the Pakistanis were dead.

The mob's hostility towards the Pakistani policemen is understandable, considering that they are part of the force that is crushing the people's desire for freedom. Because the Bahraini people want their rights as citizens, their fury would naturally turn on anyone helping an authoritarian regime. Conflicting reports say Pakistani homes have been marked as targets for future attacks, imperilling the lives of thous- ands of Pakistani men, women and children. Yet the Bahria and Fauji foundations continue to seek recruits for the Bahrain National Guards. Islamabad must realise the damage the continued recruitment is doing to Pakistan's image in Bahrain and other Gulf countries at a time when an anti-establishment wave is rocking the Arab world from the Gulf to the Atlantic. It is true that the recruitment drive has been in place for long and is not specific to the current situation. Nevertheless, Pakistanis' continued recruitment to a coercive apparatus would appear to the people of Bahrain as a callous disregard for their struggle for freedom.