Apparently, former Pakistani President General Pervez Mushrraf is “upbeat” after meeting with the Saudi King and being treated to an official welcome.

Musharraf’s resignation last year was aided by the fact that London, Washington and Riyadh guaranteed him that he would not face prosecution in Pakistan if he relinquished his presidency. Obviously, he was afraid of retribution from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, who’s leader, Nawaz Sharif, he had initially ousted in the 1999 coup. Coincidentally, it was the Saudis who brokered a (now defunct) deal between Sharif and Musharraf that would have required that Sharif stay away from Pakistan and Pakistani politics for ten years–a deal guaranteed by the Saudis. (Cautionary note for Musharraf: if the Saudis couldn’t keep Sharif at bay the first time around, what makes you believe that they’ll be successful this time around?) Certain PML-N members have already asked the Supreme Court to look into treason charges against Musharraf.

Riyadh has, since it began supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 70s/80s, been courting Pakistan. Industrial investment, loans for infrastructure and funds for madressahs have flowed into Pakistan over the past few decades.

And it’s not that the Saudis are advancing a particular political agenda in Pakistan. While it may be true that the money for maddresahs has shaped the political plane–creating more Islamists and a more devout Pakistani society–these funds are largely private/unofficial. The Saudis have worked with various Pakistani governments, in spite of ideological differences. For example, they worked with General Zia’s Islamic dictatorship and Benazir Bhutto’s more liberal People’s Party.

For the Saudis, Pakistan is a strategic asset–a Muslim state with a nuclear bomb it can rely on to defend against Iran or Israel. In the past, and perhaps presently, the Saudis have sought a nuclear arsenal of their own. With the danger of whole scale international scrutiny and a substantial American presence nearby (Qatar, Iraq), it would be irrational for Riyadh to consider a proper nuclear program at this stage. Instead, it courts Pakistan’s various governments–not to mention its close ties with Pakistan’s all-powerful military–to keep the nuclear option open, both for Pakistan’s retaliatory capability and the technology it can transfer in the future.