The ascent of Arab nationalism | By Zafar Aziz Chaudhry

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The ascent of Arab nationalism

THE Arabs are one of the most ancient races which exist on earth. Their recorded history tells us that

they existed as a race towards the mid-ninth century BC. Most of them lived in the land which constituted the present Arabian peninsula.

They were divided into various tribes who used to fight with one another. Before the advent of Islam, they were pagans, and worshiped various deities and gods.

God blessed these desert nomads with a man of great valour and sagacity namely Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud who forged unity in various tribes and founded Saudi Arabia by becoming their first King who reigned Saudi Arabia from 23 September 1932 until his death in 1953.

After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923), and towards the end of World War-II, the Arabs were free to make their own independent foreign policy.

As being their king, Abdulaziz, presided over the discovery of petroleum in Saudi Arabia in 1938.

For the stability of his empire, he multiplied his family and had nearly 45 sons to succeed him as part of his lineage.

On May 29, 1933, King Abdulaziz signed an agreement to explore oil with Standards Oil of California Company (SOCAL) which later assumed the name of Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO).

Thus by a gradual and wise policy, American personnel were replaced by the Arabian staff.

On March 3, 1938, with the help and assistance of Americans, an oil well in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, was drilled which came to be identified as the largest source of petroleum in the world.

King Abdulaziz further strengthened his hold on his kingdom. In 1950, a fifty-fifty profit-sharing agreement was signed, whereby a tax was levied by the government.

This tax considerably increased government revenues. The government continued this trend well into the ‘80s. By 1982, ARAMCO’s concession area was drastically reduced and by 1988, ARAMCO was officially bought out by Saudi Arabia and then it became known as Saudi Aramco.

Today, oil accounts for more than 90% of Saudi Arabia’s budget revenue. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer and accounts for roughly 15% of global output.

Following the signing, American geologists flocked to the Kingdom in 1933 and headed for the coastal village of Al-Jubail, which is some 105 kilometres north of Dammam.

This agreement highlights the resilience of King Abdulaziz, the Kingdom’s unifier, due to whose perseverance Saudi Arabia became a major producer of oil in the world.

At present, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has nominated Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, his son (who is colloquially called MBS) as his Crown Prince and has transferred all powers to him.

For the first time dissociating himself from the traditional and religious traditions of the previous rulers, MBS has introduced reforms in an effort to rebrand his regime’s image internationally and within the kingdom.

These include regulations restricting the powers of the religious police and improving women’s rights, such as the removal of the ban on female drivers in 2018 and weakening the male-guardianship system in 2019.

Other cultural developments under his reign include the first Saudi public concerts by a female singer, the first Saudi sports stadium to admit women, an increased presence of women in the workforce and opening the country to international tourists by introducing an e-visa system.

His Saudi Vision 2030 program aims to diversify the country’s e-economy through investment in non-oil sectors including technology and tourism.

There is no substantial change in the so-called religious reforms which are ritualistic in nature and are only aimed at strengthening the authority of the Crown.

Now the Saudi Ruling hierarchy is waking up to the reality that their oil wells would soon dry up which will severely affect their economy.

A detailed analysis reveals that without Net Exports, there would be about 221 years of oil left (at current consumption levels).

The United Arab Emirates has successfully launched its Mars Mission which will meet the Red planet in six months.

Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammad has brought unprecedented changes to his land by inviting the best architects who have raised spectacular skylines displaying the worlds’ tallest and most stunning buildings; and the ‘Emirates’ has become the world’s top airline.

The UAE is looked upon as futuristic gimmickry: A boy of 27 years of age has been appointed as the world’s first minister of artificial intelligence.

Following UAE’s example all other GCC countries have also followed the same pattern. How could Saudi Arabia, therefore, be left behind?

Saudi Arabia has started the construction of Neom, a futuristic mega city deep in the desert bordering the Red Sea.

Costing $500 billion upward, it will feature artificial rain, a fake moon, robotic maids, flying taxis and holographic teachers.

Qatar has already spent over $220bn while hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Expansive been flown in from around the globe to run all this show.

New Arab universities are spreading fast with several US universities having Arab campuses to which famous foreign professors are lured with incredible pay packages.

Laboratories are stuffed with scientific equipment and every kind of infrastructure is there for the asking.

Eminent surveys declare it as “West Asia’s second most scientifically productive country after Israel”.

Other GCC countries have also shot up in world rankings as well. A UNESCO’s Science Report, observed that in most Arab countries, “the education system is still not turning out graduates who are motivated to contribute to a healthier economy”.

The report bemoans their poor work ethic and lack of curiosity among their students. Reading habits are undeveloped. Various scholars have observed, “Arab culture is self-absorbed and centred on self-pride.

” Convinced that they possess the only true religion and, therefore, claim eternal monopoly over truth.

That is why the entire Arab nation suffers from narcissism on a civilizational scale. To shelve this thinking, the Arabs would still take at least two more generations to vie with the enlightened nations of the West.

—The writer is former member of Provincial Civil Service and author of three books, based in Islamabad.