(Baku – Azerbaijan ) : – Dr Shahid Qureshi exclusive interview with the Azerbaijan News Agency.
- How do you see the future developments of these tensions?
Dr Shahid Qureshi : I think sanity will prevail and both countries will make decisions in the larger interests of the people. It is time that Iran should stop interfering into the matters of other countries. The people executed in Saudi Arabia were its citizens and convicted by the courts for various charges from terrorism to incitement to violence and sedation. These were very serious charges.
2 – How it will affect the situation on the Middle East region?
Dr Shahid Qureshi : – It will further isolate Iran in the middle east as well as in the other regional Muslim countries. Iran must not act if it has sovereign rights over all Shias in the world and sectarianism has already damaged countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. People thinks that Iranian revolution is on its last legs and Iran should see its role as a Muslim country with other member states of the UN and not as a Sheriff of Shias in all other countries. That is alienating Shia communities in other countries and fueling sectarianism. There is about 3% influential and active Shia population in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Sunni majority society is very open minded and tolerant as well as intertwined with inter marriages and relationships. Khurshid Kasuri Pakistani foreign minister told me London while talking about his meeting with Iranian foreign minister.
Pakistani foreign minister said to his Iranian counterpart in Tehran: “Shias of Pakistan are not like Sunnis in Iran and he pointed to a high official with him and said ‘he is a Shia now you show me any Sunni around you of his rank”. He was referring to the rights of the Sunnis in Iran.
- Do you think that Sudan, UAE and Bahrain were right to stop diplomatic relations with Iran?
Dr Shahid Qureshi : – As I said the major problem is Iranian interfering into the local communities of those countries and use of Shias in those countries for its political agenda. There are large number of Sunnis in Iran whose voice is almost suppressed. Iran is surrounded by the Sunni majority countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey. There is almost 50-50 population of Sunnis in Iraq. Syria where a small Shia minority is ruling a majority Sunni country for many years. The burning of Saudi Embassy and consulates have raised alarms in those capitals. Pakistani embassy was attacked and flag was burnt in 2009 for same reasons as some Shias killed in terrorist attacks but Pakistanis have quietly addressed the issue. Something which was being dealt with in the back channels now it has come in the open and people are asking questions about ‘Iranian sectarian policy’ and that its Islamic revolution a was in fact ‘Shia Revolution’.
Pakistani society is very tolerant and don’t have sectarian mind-set. Now Pakistani Shias are going to Syria via Iran to join Asad forces on very high salaries and full financial support in case of death. Some Pakistani Shia have been buried in Iran after they were killed in Syria. Iranian role is questioned in Iraq and Afghanistan as it seen as sole beneficiary of both wars.
The countries you have mentioned have withdrawn its diplomats and that is not in favour of Iran.
- How it will affect on the resolution of Yemen, Syria and Palestine crises, taking into consideration that both countries play crucial role in these countries?
Dr Shahid Qureshi : – By attacking and burning Saudi embassy in Tehran Iran has shot in its foot. I am not sure how they are going to change the perception in the region. It has actually damaged its moral stand on the issues you mentioned above. It is fueling sectarianism which is damaging for the whole region and Iran. Iran should more political view and reach out to those countries. Obviously does not have religious view all the times. For example, it is mostly seen in the Indian camp in Afghanistan and made India its strategic partner knowingly India-Pakistan tensions on Kashmir. Pakistan is only Muslim nuclear state with interests in the middle east is now member of 34 countries anti-terrorism alliance of Muslim countries. Over 4.5 million Pakistanis are working in Sunnis countries as compared to about 25000 in Iran. Lastly Iran need to do lot of work and reach out to other countries to avoid isolation and change Shia sectarian policy as there are lot of Sunnis who support Iran on its stand on Palestine and Syria. The point is Iran need to make peace with its neighbours without exporting revolution.
(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is a PhD and also studied Law at a British University)