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11 March 2011

Bahrain is continuing to hire hundreds of former soldiers from Pakistan to serve in its National Guard, even as pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain demand an end to the government’s controversial practice of recruiting foreigners in to the security forces.

A call for applicants titled “Urgent Requirement: Manpower for Bahrain National Guard” was recently placed on the website of a prominent Pakistani human resource firm that has close ties to the Pakistani military[1].

The announcement said it was hiring several categories of ex-military personnel, including anti-riot instructors, Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, retired infantry majors, and military police.

The statement said that a delegation from the Bahrain National Guard would be visiting Pakistan for the purpose of selecting the Pakistani personnel from March 7 to March 14.

A similar advertisement was published in the Daily Jang, Pakistan’s most widely read newspaper, on the first of March[2] , and before that on the 25th of February[3] .

It is difficult to confirm the exact numbers of Pakistani ex-soldiers who have been recruited in response to the recent adverts, but sources claim as many 800 Pakistanis have already been hired in the past few weeks.

Bahrain is now in the fourth week of pro-democracy protests in which seven people were killed by security forces and dozens were injured.

Human rights activists have long complained about the controversial practice of hiring large numbers of foreigners in to the Bahraini security forces to suppress political dissent in the Kingdom[4] .

Bahrain’s police, military and national guard are staffed in large part by non-Bahraini citizens, mostly from Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.

One of the chief complaints of the pro-democracy protesters is that no Shii’ite citizens are allowed to serve in the security forces even though they make up approximately two-thirds of all Bahraini citizens.

Opposition activists also claim that tens of thousands of expatriates, many associated with the security forces, have been illegally naturalized since 2001 to reduce the proportional size of the Shi’ite majority among Bahraini citizens.

Last week saw clashes between Shi’ite youth and recently naturalized Syrians in Hamad Town[5] .

The current recruitment of hundreds of Pakistani ex-soldiers in the Bahraini security forces is taking place even as the Crown Prince of Bahrain has been urging the political opposition to enter a dialogue to resolve all political disputes.

On March 3, King Hamad visited the headquarters of the National Guard and “thanked them on their permanent readiness to protect national security”, a statement from the state-run news agency said[6].

In an attempt to quell the pro-democracy protests, the Ministry of Interior on Saturday announced it would recruit twenty-thousand Bahrainis, and would not exclude the current protesters[7].

--- [1] “Urgent Requirement Manpower for Bahrain National Guard”, posted on website of Overseas Employment Services, Fauji Foundation, Pakistan [2]Advert placed in Jang Newspaper, Pakistan, March 1, 2011 [3]Advert placed in Jang Newspaper, Pakistan, February 25, 2011 [4] “The Bahraini Authorities Recruit of Mercenaries from Makran Town, Pakistan”, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, June 6, 2009 [5] “Sectarian violence flares in Bahrain”, Financial Times, March 4, 2011 [6]“HM King Hamad Visits the National Guard”, Bahrain News Agency, March 3, 2011 [7]“Bahrain’s Promised Spending Fails to Quell Dissent”, The News York Times, March 6, 2011