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Pakistan’s Iran overtures test Saudi faith

Posted by alanmirs on July 25, 2011

Asia Time Online - Daily News

By Malik Ayub Sumbal

ISLAMABAD – Saudi Arabian concerns over Pakistan’s improving ties with Iran will likely be worsened by reports that Islamabad sent a secret delegation of hard-nosed and devout Sunni scholars to Tehran with the aim of fostering interfaith harmony with their Shi’ite counterparts.

Asia Times Online has learned that more than a dozen Wahhabis (hardline Sunni Muslims) from Pakistan were recently sent to Iran to meet with Shi’ite clerics, the majority faith in Iran. Pakistan, like Saudi Arabia, is predominantly Sunni. Efforts to keep the religious dialogue secret were exerted at the government level.

The meeting occurred weeks before a high-profile delegation, including President Asif Ali Zardari, visited Tehran for an anti-terrorism summit, suggesting that Pakistan-Iran ties were rapidly improving. (See Pakistan, Iran become ‘natural allies’, Jul 19, 2011)

Speaking in Tehran on July 17, Zardari proposed a currency-swap agreement between Pakistan and Iran to strengthen trade and said the nations had the potential to undertake joint economic projects in Afghanistan. He said there was a chance of a “new era” of development in the two countries in particular, and in the whole region.

There are also plans for a gas pipeline that would link Iran’s South Pars gas field to energy-staved Pakistan. Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain said last week that the $1.2 billion pipeline project will be complete by 2014.

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