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A major TV network of Pakistan, SAMA, has strongly advocated for recognition of the Jewish entity, Israel, by the government of Imran Khan.

Anchor of a popular SAMA program Khara Sach (Naked Truth), Mubashir Luqman, Monday (Nov 19) called on the government of Pakistan to recognize Israel because Saudi Arabia is about to recognize and “we should do before them.”

To support his demand, Mr. Luqman advocated three reasons:

Firstly, the state of Israel is a reality, it is not a dream whether we like it or not. We recognize it or not it is a fact.

Secondly, there are several Muslim countries which recognize Israel and we have diplomatic relations with those countries.

Thirdly, Pakistan is a nuclear power and with our friendship with Israel we can help Palestinians in gaining their rights.

To justify his demand for the recognition of Israel Mr. Luqman went to say:

“We don’t have any direct dispute or conflict with Israel. Palestinians don’t support us on Kashmir issue but they support India. The Arabs and Palestinians don’t recognize what atrocities are going on in Kashmir.”

Alluding that the Palestinian issue is not a Muslim issue, Mr. Luqman pointed out that at least 50% or 45% Palestinian population is of Christian faith while population of Kashmir is 100% Muslim.

Interestingly, many of Mr. Luqman’s arguments are old talking points advocated by supporters of Israel’s recognition by Pakistan.

Mr. Luqman’s advocacy for Israel’s, recognition came within weeks of categorical assertion by the President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi, that “Pakistan is not going to establish any ties with Israel.”  On October 28, President Alvi also said that Pakistan has supported Palestine because Gaza has also faced unprecedented atrocities like Kashmir.

President Alvi’s statement came to refute Israeli reports that an Israeli plane has landed in Islamabad and flew back after several hours stay.

Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights, Shirin Mazari, used Twitter to rebuff the impression that an Israeli plane landed in Pakistan for a brief period under mysterious circumstances.

“Interesting how Israeli media, with a plane fake news, managed to divert Pakistani media’s attention away from the important security issue of the Netanyahu’s Oman visit, which has strategic implications for Pakistan if Israel gets a permanent foothold in Oman where US military already has a presence,” she Tweeted.

Apparently, Pakistan is not ready to recognize Israel in solidarity with other Arab and Muslim states. Another reason for refraining from diplomatic relations with the Jewish state is the fear of a possible adverse response by the people and religious parties of Pakistan which command street power because of their madarsas and mosques.

The street power of religious parties was seen last month when Tehreek-e-Labbaik called demonstrations to protest against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Asia Bibi — a Christian woman who was previously sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by lower courts. Three major towns, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi were paralyzed and extensive material and economic damagewas caused. The violent protest ended when the government reached an agreement with Tehreek-e-Labbaik which secured 2.2 million votes in 2018 elections.

It is argued that Pakistan could only cope with this volatile situation if most other Arab and Muslim states establish ties with Israel.

Israeli, Pakistani Foreign Ministers meet in Istanbul

To keep things in perspective, it is pertinent to point out that the first acknowledged high-level talks between Israel and Pakistan happened on September 1, 2005 when Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met with Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri in Istanbul.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said that “Pakistan attaches great importance to Israel ending its occupation of Gaza. Pakistan has therefore decided to engage Israel.”

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry official in Islamabad said full diplomatic relations weren’t imminent adding that the meeting in Turkey would help gauge public reaction in Pakistan.

Shalom hailed the meeting as “historic” and said that following the Gaza withdrawal it is “the time for all of the Muslim and Arab countries to reconsider their relations with Israel.”

“Pakistan as the second-largest Muslim country after Indonesia has great weight,” Shalom said. “They themselves took a very brave step. We know they were under harsh attack, from the clergy and from others.”

Shalom said he hoped the relationship with Pakistan would blossom and help other Muslim and Arab nations to seek ties to Israel.

In August 2005 Israel evacuated all settlements in Gaza. However, despite the withdrawal, the Gaza remained under Israeli military occupation and siege.

Commenting on the meeting, President Pervez Musharraf said he had first sought the counsel of Saudi Arabia and of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

MMA protests

Not surprisingly, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, coalition of six religious parties, called on supporters to rally outside mosques across the country to condemn the first formal talks between Pakistan and Israel, saying the talks were a step toward diplomatic recognition.

MMA secured 2.5 million votes in July 2018 elections.

The then MMA’s chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, sharply criticized President Gen. Pervez Musharraf for sending Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri to Turkey for talks with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom, despite the government’s insistence it does not signal imminent diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

“The meeting between Kasuri and Israeli foreign minister is a first toward recognition of Israel,” Qazi Hussain Ahmed told the rally in Peshawar. “Musharraf wants to sell the blood of Palestinians and we will not allow him to do it.”

“Only one individual (Musharraf) took this decision. We condemn it,” said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, deputy chief of the coalition of religious parties.

Musharraf addresses the World Jewish Congress

Almost two weeks after Israeli and Pakistani Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Istanbul, President General Parvez Musharraf met with the US Jewish leaders in New York when he addressed the World Jewish Congress on September 18, 2005.

In his speech, Musharraf spoke about Pakistan-Israel relations, and said there is no natural enmity between the two countries.

“Pakistan has no direct conflict with Israel, and we are not a threat to Israel’s security. We believe Israel represents no threat to Pakistan’s national security. But our people have deep sympathy for the Palestinian people, and their legitimate desire for a state,” he said.

“In response to (Israeli Prime Minister) Sharon’s courageous decision to pull out from Gaza, Pakistan has decided to establish formal ties with the State of Israel. With the progression of the peace process towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, we intend to take further steps toward normalization, collaboration and the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, “Musharraf said.

The Pakistani leader stated he is convinced that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute constitutes the central, though not the singular, cause for terror in the Middle East.

“Because of the great impact this problem has, the international community, and the United States in particular, are responsible for securing a peaceful resolution in the region. The Israelis and the Palestinians must strive for reconciliation,” he said.

“I am convinced that a just peace will end this sad chapter in Middle Eastern history. It will also revive the historic relation between Islam and Judaism, and uproot the rage and frustration that motivate extremism and violence,” he said.

The President of the Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen said that “tonight’s event represents the outcome of a two-year’s effort.”

Why insistence to recognize Israel?

Reverting to senior SAMA anchor, Mubashir Luqman’s argument for the recognition of Israel by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government which came into power in August 2018 after the July 25 general elections where Khan’s Tenreek-e-Insaf Party won 16.86 million votes which included 5 million conservative votes.

Political observers believe that it is highly unlikely that Imran Khan’s government will recognize the Jewish state but the question remains, why a senior anchor of SAMA is forcefully pleading the case of Israel?

The observers argue that raising this non issue from SAMA may be an attempt to begin a controversy and provide ammunition to the opposition – Muslim League Nawaz and Pakistan Peoples’ Party – which are in disarray because of mega corruption cases initiated by the Accountability Bureau.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

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