Hajj Crush Tarnishes Saudis’ Image in Pakistan
The Hajj crush which led to the deaths of hundreds, or maybe thousands of pilgrims, has led to such an unusual public outcry in the Pakistan that has prompted the government to warn the privately run television networks to avoid criticizing the Saudis in news programs.
For years, Saudi Arabia has had a hallowed status in Pakistan, considered above question or criticism. Yet the Hajj crush near Mecca last month has taken some of the luster off the exalted image of the kingdom, The New York Times correspondent in Islamabad, Pakistan reported on Tuesday.
Scores of Pakistani pilgrims were killed in the disaster, and many families still do not know what happened to relatives. That has set off an unusual public outcry that prompted the Pakistani government to warn the privately run, characteristically rambunctious television networks to avoid criticizing the Saudis in news programs and talk shows.
Pakistan has long been a close ally of Saudi Arabia, which has provided generous amounts of military and other aid over the years.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has his own close ties: After his previous government was overthrown in a military coup in 1999, he went into exile there. Still, Mr. Sharif disappointed his former hosts in April when Pakistan’s Parliament voted not to send troops, aircraft and warships to Yemen, as the Saudis had asked.
Immediately after the crush Sept. 24, Pakistani officials tried to play down its scale, initially claiming that only 10 Pakistanis had died while acknowledging that at least 300 were missing. Since then, senior officials have been careful in their statements regarding the crush.