By Soroor Ahmed (NVONews.com)
Within nine months of the death of the then Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, another Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, died in Geneva, where he was for medical treatment since May. He was 78.
According to Saudi state television Nayef would be buried in Mecca on Sunday.
He was country’s interior minister since 1975, the year Shah Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud was assassinated by his own nephew. Nayef was the heir to Saudi King Abdullah and was appointed Crown Prince in October after the death of his elder brother Crown Prince Sultan.
The present King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud is 89 year old. Nayef’s death means that King Abdullah will have to nominate a new Crown Prince for the second time in nine months.
Sources said that Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, who is 76 years old, is favourite to be nominated as the Crown Prince. He is likely to continue King Abdullah’s cautious reforms. He has long been viewed as the next most senior Prince in the Kingdom’s succession. He was made Defence Minister in November last and had served as governor of Riyadh for five decades.
Nayef, on the other hand, had a reputation of being a stauch conservative who opposed King Abdullah’s reforms and developed a formidable security infrastructure that crushed al-Qaeda but also locked up some political activists. It was during his tenure as interior minister that a revolt in Makkah during Haj was crushed and Iranian pilgrims protesting against America and Israel during Haj were fired upon. These separate incidents took place more than three decades back.
Nayef, King Abdullah, Salman and Sultan are among the nearly 40 sons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, who established the kingdom in 1935. Before World War-I a large part of what is called Arabian peninsula was under the control of Ottoman Turks.
Incidentally, all these four brothers––dead or alive––are above 75. Not only that a sizeable lot of princes, who hold different key portfolios, are in 70s. All the Kings who died in the last couple of decades met their end at fairly late age.
So instead of fresh blood ruling the country it is a gerontocracy which is dominating the Kingdom. Though the royal family has shown some signs of opening up, it is yet to realize that Saudi Arabia has a fairly young population yearning for change.