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The food items allegedly sent to Israel from Pakistan must have been by now fully digested, and Israelis must have relished their taste. But, for reasons supposed to be both political and opinionated, this one-container export, sent via the United Arab Emirates, has caused a firestorm against the government.

How come Pakistan is trading with Israel with which it has no diplomatic relationship, as the entity is believed to be a bone-crusher of Palestinians? The exported material is of Pakistan-origin, its shipper Fishel ben Khalid is a proud Pakistani and is proponent of trade ties between the two countries and visits Israel on Pakistani passport, but the government is out on the street crying it has nothing to do with this venture.

Since any move or gesture suggesting Pakistan wants to break the ice by establishing working relationship with the Zionist state is considered treasonous his action has been disowned by both the ministries of foreign affairs and commerce.

As a matter of official policy, Pakistan endorses the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has maintained its long-standing position of non-recognition of Israel until an independent Palestine state is established within pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Till not very far in the past, minus a very few exceptions, that was also the stance of the Muslim world. But no more; of late quite a few Muslim states have accorded diplomatic recognition to Israel and set about undertaking joint economic cooperation.

Will Pakistan also follow in the footsteps of other Muslim states and recognize Israel? Given the stern rejection of Fishel ben Khalid’s export to Israel as officially legal the answer is a big no – at least for the present, as was case with other members of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference), who have now struck deals with Israel and accorded it diplomatic recognition.

But if the history of Pakistan’s worldview of Israel is any indicator, the outright rejection of Fishel ben Khalid’s action is not the first of its kind. But even recognition of Israel is not on the cards there have been instances that the two have been in contact, both directly and indirectly.

For Pakistan, this secrecy enabled its rulers to maintain regular contacts with Israel even while maintaining public opposition to the Jewish state. The Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal were opposed to the return of Jews to Palestine.

Addressing a mass meeting in the then Bombay in 1945, the Quaid said: ‘’The Muslims of India would not remain as mere spectators. They would help Arabs in Palestine by all possible means’’. But after Partition Pakistan maintained a calm, statesmanlike demeanor in times of highly emotional international crises such as the 1956 Suez Crisis and the conflict between Israel and the Arab countries in June 1967.

Although the stated formal position is pro-Arab, Pakistani leaders have been adopting a less rigid, and pragmatic policy vis-à-vis Israel. Pakistan’s first foreign minister, Sir Zafarulla Khan, on his return from a visit to Palestine wrote to a Jewish leader: ‘’The problem of Palestine is much more complicated than I had imagined, but let us hope that a just and equitable solution may soon be discovered’’, and in his talks at Damascus indicated that partition, which he had vehemently opposed, was the only solution for Palestine.

He even advised the Arabs to allow that partition, as Israel is ‘’a limb in the body of the Middle East’’. But Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who hosted the second Islamic Summit in 1974, is on record having said that ‘’any agreement, any protocol, any understanding that postulates the continuance of Israeli occupation of Holy City or the transfer of the City to any non-Muslim or no-Arab sovereignty, will not be worth the paper it is written on’’.

However, his nemesis General Ziaul Haq is on record having said, ‘’Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state. Take out the Judaism from Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state, it would collapse’’.

During the Afghan war, there were media reports that the chief of Pakistan’s most trusted intelligence service held a top secret meeting with a senior Mossad official in Vienna.

In 2005, President General Musharraf’s foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri had a breakfast meeting with his Israel counterpart in Istanbul.

On the private level there have been visits of Pakistani delegations to Israel, as was that of Maulana Tahirul Qadri in the past and now of Fishel ben Khalid.

In both the cases the Foreign Office had stoutly denied government blessing. However, PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s) minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, had accepted that the bar for visiting Israel on Pakistan passports was waived for visits to Israel by Pakistan nationals belonging to the Jewish faith. But certainly not for trading. But the times have changed; there are new ground realities, that Pakistan should not pass over.

If the Arabs - the Palestinians are Arabs – can cosy up to Israel, an option they rightly think can help the two-state solution, why not Pakistan? Let us think over it realistically and pragmatically.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


Comments are closed.

Adi Apr 07, 2023 09:32am
Madness. Fishel Ben Khalid should be given a reward in opening a new market to Pakistani exports and bringing in much needed foreign exchange. Reality is that Pakistan exports to and imports from India via UAE. The Emirati state grows while Pakistan maintains the moral high ground! You figure out who is the loser.
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KhanRA Apr 07, 2023 09:58am
Our Arab “brothers” don’t care about Palestinians - and are dealing hendits in Washington for this. As much as we pretend otherwise, Washington matters much more than Beijing: and it will be this way for decades. We need to get on America’s good side for future IMF bailouts, and normalisation of ties with Israel is an easy way to do this. What they do to Palestinians is bad, but why should that be a reason for us to stay poorer? Arabs don’t care about Kashmir, we don’t care about Uighurs, so let’s not tie ourselves to Palestine.
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A. Tahir Apr 07, 2023 12:33pm
Dollar is might powerful! Indeed!
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Haq Apr 07, 2023 12:49pm
All the people who favor normalization of ties or any soft corner towards Israel, must read book called 'Jewish Utopia', establishment of AI - Masayah (evil) kingdom to rule entire World (WEF agenda), Gentile (everyone except Jews are lesser beings) philosophy, single (satanic) 'Lucifaric religion', Zuhari dictorine, Adam Kadmon & than look around the World to see the current chaos
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KhanRA Apr 07, 2023 02:12pm
@Haq, Just because someone paints an elaborate story that fits into your own worldview, doesn’t mean it’s true. These anti-Jew conspiracies were imported from the Christian world, and date back hundreds of years. Adopting Christian conspiracy theories doesn’t make you a good Muslim.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 04:49pm
Palestinians have been rendered stateless in their own lands. They can’t even move around freely in their own lands. No normalization with Israel.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 04:56pm
@KhanRA, Palestinians were killed and ethnically cleansed to create a Jewish majority Israel. Those Palestinians are still living in refugee camps. Millions more have been rendered stateless in their own lands. They can’t even move around freely in their own lands. They are routinely harassed and killed by the settlers. Israel should be boycotted just like Apertheid South Africa was.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 05:00pm
@Adi , Palestinian are suffering under Israel just like South Africans were suffering under the Apartheid regime. Boycott Israel just like the Apartheid regime. Don’t just think money all the time.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 05:30pm
Pakistan could have engaged in trade with South Africa’s apartheid regime and made some financial gains. Even though Pakistan did not have any religious or ethnic ties to the South African people, it boycotted Apartheid SA, and that is something to be proud of. Israel is today’s apartheid regime. Boycott Israel also.
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KU Apr 07, 2023 07:25pm
Strategies and plans are always evolving according to the environment and situation, and likewise, ideologies also need to be revisited and rationalized. Many Muslim countries have changed their ideologies or position regarding Israel, and they were not desperate for the normalization of relations with them but understand that trade and the future of Gulf countries are a priority. We should debate the moral and humanitarian standards of Israel vis a vis Palestinians, and OIC and other champions of human rights should be engaged to settle the issue that violates Palestinians' right to freedom.
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KhanRA Apr 07, 2023 08:33pm
@Az_Iz, what happened in 1948 will not be reversed. If we can stay silent as the Chinese mistreat the Uyghurs and flood the region with Han Chinese settlers, then we have no standing to complain now. And bedsides, recognition of Israel is just recognition of the reality that Israel exists. Recognition of Israel does not mean we agree with their treatment of Palestinians. Turkey recognizes Israel and is a staunch supporter of Palestine. In fact, if we recognize israel, we would have more sway to voice our concerns about Palestine.
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KhanRA Apr 07, 2023 08:36pm
@Az_Iz, you’re comparing apples to oranges. The whole world boycotted South Africa, which offered nothing but diamonds. Boycotts will not work against Israel because Israel is a vital part of the tech ecosystem. If anything, Israel is gaining more recognition. Saudi Arabia even has ties with it. Of course UAE and Bahrain too. Morocco as well. Even our friend Turkey has relations with it. Are we so ignorant to think our boycott will make any difference? We can only pressure Israel if we have ties to Israel.
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KhanRA Apr 07, 2023 08:39pm
@Az_Iz, keep in mind we have diplomatic ties to India, which under Modi has committed immense crimes against Kashmiris. Yet, Palestinians matter more than Kashmiris? Because we have relations with India, and even import medicine from them. So we can trade with them, but not Israel? And do you realize that we cannot buy product from Palestine such as olive oil without recognizing Israel too? So we’re not even helping the Palestinians by refusing to recognise Israel. We’re actually harming them by shutting ourselves off as a market for their goods,
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 10:40pm
@KhanRA, the Palestinians are the only people who are stateless in their own lands. Most of the technology that Israel is supposed to be vital part of, is actually created elsewhere. Israelis only add bells and whistles to it. Look at how sway UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and all are having on events in Palestine. Almost nothing. The whole did not boycott SA to begin with. The West had good relations with it for sometime, until it was untenable. Crime and other evil also exists in every society. It is a reality. And it is not going to disappear. But you don’t embrace it, or just learn to live with it. You always try to push back against it.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 10:46pm
@KhanRA, look at world history. Nothing is permanent or irreversible. No one dominates forever.
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Az_Iz Apr 07, 2023 11:34pm
@KhanRA, it was mostly the poor third world countries that were strongly against the apartheid, which had almost no direct impact on SA. A lot of western countries were having good relations with SA. This contrast was untenable, and did have some bearing on the SA supporters to rethink their position. Imagine if all the third world countries themselves were getting along fine with SA. What would there be a reason for SA supporters to change their position.
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Az_Iz Apr 08, 2023 12:07am
@KhanRA, diplomatic relations with India and China were already established, and then other issues propped up. Uighur and Kashmiris are in the interim , not stateless. Uighurs conditions should definitely need improvement. And Kashmiris should be able to hold plebiscite. It was India that took the matter to UN and agreed to honor the resolution in letter and spirit. Besides, you are saying, if you are wrong one time, why not be wrong again. Two wrongs won’t make a right.
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