Tensions rising within the Saudi royal family

The authorities in Saudi Arabia arrested 11 princes who were protesting against the cuts in their perks claims the news site Sabq.org. The princes gather at the historic royal palace of Qasr-e-Hokm in Riyadh to show their displeasure at the cuts in state subsidy provide to them for the payments of their utility bills. The royal decree cuts the amount of subsidy for the members of royal family paid to them for water, electricity and other utility bills. 

The authorities asked the princes to leave the palace but they refused in a rare show of defiance and protest. According to the news site, a royal order was issued to the royal guards to arrest the princes and to put them in Al-Hayer prison. All the 11 princes will be put on trial later. The guards who arrest the princes are linked with a unit of 5000 strong force working directly under Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

The arrest of princes send the clear message to everyone that Crown Prince Muhammad who is running the affairs in the Kingdom is not ready to tolerate any dissent and sign of defiance. But this rare protest also shows the mounting dissent and displeasure brewing inside the royal family against the measures and policies being implemented by crown prince.

This measure is part of the ongoing austerity measures to bring down the budget deficits. Thousands of royal family members received the hefty stipends from the state to live a lavish life. The crown prince is getting support from the educated middle class population for taking such bold decisions. The crown prince is also weakening the grip of different princes to strengthen his own position. Very little is coming out regarding the differences among the royal family members. The media censorship made it difficult to get the real situation.

The British media published some stories regarding the torture on the arrested top princes put in a five star hotel. The British media alleged that the crown prince hired the services of notorious American security company Black Water to interrogate the arrested princes. The Black Water and Saudi authorities denied those reports.

The authorities give no further details of the arrested princes. Even the names are being with held. The authorities already arrested more than 300 people including the top businessmen, traders and princes. Saudi Arabia is facing the financial problems and hardships due to the lower oil prices. The war in Yemen has further burdened the already ailing economy. The situation looks serious in Saudi Arabia. The struggle between different factions within the royal family seems intensifying.

The further fall in the economy will force the regime to take more drastic measures to cut the expenditures. The hard line religious conservative   regime has already introduce the new taxes, increased the prices of petrol and electricity. The imposition of 5 percent VAT (Value Added Tax, equivalent of Pakistani GST) has already give raised the cost of living. Many foreign workers have been forced to send their families back home to coop with the situation. The wages of both public and private sector has been cut and decreased.

Saudi Arabia is struggling to minimise the impacts of low oil prices. This struggle is going to be tough and long one. There is no easy solution to the problems faced by an economy dependent heavily on the oil. Economy diversification kick started by the crown prince Muhammad will take time and resources. This process will be painful and prolonged. The future of Crown Prince Muhammad largely depends on the pace of economic recovery. One thing can be said with confident that Saudi Arabia has entered into the rough and murky waters.

N&A editorial

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