Pakistani troops deploy outside the police training centre in the northern city of Quetta on October 25, 2016 following an attack on the building. Naseer Ahmed / Reuters
Pakistani troops deploy outside the police training centre in the northern city of Quetta on October 25, 2016 following an attack on the building. Naseer Ahmed / Reuters

Pakistan in talks with Saudi Arabia to send combat troops to protect the kingdom



ISLAMABAD // Pakistan is in discussions with Saudi Arabia to send combat troops to protect the kingdom amid growing concern over threats from ISIL militants and Houthi rebels.
 
Plans are under way to dispatch a brigade-sized deployment following a request from Riyadh, which wants the troops as an emergency response force. A brigade is usually made up of between 1,500 and 3,500 troops.
 
Islamabad and Saudi Arabia have long had a close military and security relationship, with troops from Pakistan's large and combat-hardened army regularly deployed for training Saudi soldiers. Although the kingdom, like other Arab Gulf countries, does not make the numbers public, experts say there are as many as 70,000 Pakistanis serving across the Saudi military services at any one time.
 
But requests for Pakistani combat brigades have usually only been made during times of heightened tensions in the kingdom.
 
Pakistani combat troops were sent after the 1979 attack on the Grand Mosque complex in Mecca by a proto-Al Qaeda extremist group and the Iranian revolution of the same year.
 
Forces from Pakistan were based in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War when the kingdom feared attack by Saddam Hussein.
Again, a decade ago, they were deployed as the US military ramped up operations to crush Al Qaeda in Iraq, prompting fears that the extremists would flee across the Saudi border, and as the militant group carried out a violent terrorist campaign within the kingdom.
 
A senior Pakistani military source confirmed the Saudi request, but stressed troops would "not go across the border" with Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition, of which the UAE is part, against the Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement.
 
Instead, the source said troops would be kept on standby in case of any major internal security threat or terrorist incident.
 
The deployment - which another Pakistani source claimed was still at the planning stage - comes at a sensitive time in Saudi Arabia's relationship with Islamabad.
 
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Analysis: How Pakistan's military offers the Gulf much more than boots on the ground
 
The deployment of Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia would cap a diplomatic push by Islamabad's army chief and prime minister, who have visited the kingdom, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE in recent weeks. A number of economic and security interests have aligned to underscore the strategic importance of the relationship for both sides.
 
Read full analysis here
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In 2015, the Pakistani parliament voted to turn down a request by Saudi Arabia to join its coalition fighting the takeover of Yemen by the Houthis and their allies. Members of Pakistan's parliament opted instead for a neutral stance on the Yemen conflict, fearing it would jeopardise their efforts to balance relations with the kingdom and Iran.
 
At the time, the Pakistani military was also wary of any involvement in a foreign war because its forces were overstretched fighting Pakistani Taliban and other extremist groups in the north-western tribal areas and elsewhere within the country's borders. That offensive has ended and an intelligence-led operation requiring less manpower has taken its place.
 
Another Pakistani official said the deployment emphasised that Saudi Arabia's internal security and economic prosperity are key interests for Islamabad, but that Pakistan would not do anything that could be perceived as taking sides in the regional rivalry between Tehran and Riyadh which has inflamed sectarian divisions across the Middle East.
 
Former Pakistani army chief Gen Raheel Sharif was selected last year by Riyadh as the potential commander of the Saudi-led alliance of Muslim-majority countries aimed at counter-terrorism. But this prompted concerns among politicians and within the army command that Pakistan was becoming too involved in an organisation that excluded Iran and Iraq, where the government is dominated by Shiites.
 
Up to a quarter of Pakistanis are also Shiite, and that proportion is reflected in the armed forces.
 
"You don't want to get involved in a conflict that is ultimately sectarian because that is going to undermine the unity of the Pakistan army," said Rifaat Hussain, an expert on Pakistan's relations with the GCC at the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad.
 
Since then, debate has continued in Islamabad about whether to allow retired Gen Sharif to fill the role and what the parameters for any Pakistani troop involvement will be. Gen Sharif himself has reportedly placed conditions on his taking the position, including a role as mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
 
If the latest discussed deployment of a Pakistani brigade to Saudi Arabia goes ahead, it would not be as part of the Islamic military alliance. But it is a sign of a marked improvement in ties between Pakistan and Arab Gulf states since the low point of 2015.
 
foreign.desk@thenational.ae
 
* Taimur Khan reported from Abu Dhabi

The bio

Favourite book: Peter Rabbit. I used to read it to my three children and still read it myself. If I am feeling down it brings back good memories.

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Best part of life in the UAE: The weather. The constant sunshine is amazing and there is always something to do, you have so many options when it comes to how to spend your day.

Favourite holiday destination: Malaysia. I went there for my honeymoon and ended up volunteering to teach local children for a few hours each day. It is such a special place and I plan to retire there one day.

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
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Profile of Udrive

Date started: March 2016

Founder: Hasib Khan

Based: Dubai

Employees: 40

Amount raised (to date): $3.25m – $750,000 seed funding in 2017 and a Seed+ round of $2.5m last year. Raised $1.3m from Eureeca investors in January 2021 as part of a Series A round with a $5m target.

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
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The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

Monster Hunter: World

Capcom

PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

EMILY IN PARIS: SEASON 3

Created by: Darren Star

Starring: Lily Collins, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Ashley Park

Rating: 2.75/5

Zimbabwe v UAE, ODI series

All matches at the Harare Sports Club:

1st ODI, Wednesday, April 10

2nd ODI, Friday, April 12

3rd ODI, Sunday, April 14

4th ODI, Tuesday, April 16

UAE squad: Mohammed Naveed (captain), Rohan Mustafa, Ashfaq Ahmed, Shaiman Anwar, Mohammed Usman, CP Rizwan, Chirag Suri, Mohammed Boota, Ghulam Shabber, Sultan Ahmed, Imran Haider, Amir Hayat, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed

NYBL PROFILE

Company name: Nybl 

Date started: November 2018

Founder: Noor Alnahhas, Michael LeTan, Hafsa Yazdni, Sufyaan Abdul Haseeb, Waleed Rifaat, Mohammed Shono

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: Software Technology / Artificial Intelligence

Initial investment: $500,000

Funding round: Series B (raising $5m)

Partners/Incubators: Dubai Future Accelerators Cohort 4, Dubai Future Accelerators Cohort 6, AI Venture Labs Cohort 1, Microsoft Scale-up 

How to invest in gold

Investors can tap into the gold price by purchasing physical jewellery, coins and even gold bars, but these need to be stored safely and possibly insured.

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Another way to invest in gold’s success is to buy gold mining stocks, but Mr Gravier says this brings added risks and can be more volatile. “They have a serious downside potential should the price consolidate.”

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Mining companies are a business, susceptible to other market forces, such as worker availability, health and safety, strikes, debt levels, and so on. “These have nothing to do with gold at all. It means that some companies will survive, others won’t.”

By contrast, when gold is mined, it just sits in a vault. “It doesn’t even rust, which means it retains its value,” Mr Kyprianou says.

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You could spread this risk with an actively managed fund that invests in a spread of gold miners, with the best known being BlackRock Gold & General. It is up an incredible 55 per cent over the past year, and 240 per cent over five years. As always, past performance is no guide to the future.

About Takalam

Date started: early 2020

Founders: Khawla Hammad and Inas Abu Shashieh

Based: Abu Dhabi

Sector: HealthTech and wellness

Number of staff: 4

Funding to date: Bootstrapped

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

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Job: Coder, website designer and chief executive, Trinet solutions

School: Year 8 pupil at Elite English School in Abu Hail, Deira

Role Models: Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk

Dream City: San Francisco

Hometown: Dubai

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In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement
John Heminway, Knopff

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

The Sky Is Pink

Director: Shonali Bose

Cast: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim, Rohit Saraf

Three stars

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.