Thursday December 07, 2023

'No change in policy': FO clarifies on official trade with Israel

There is no change in Pakistan's policy towards Israel, says Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch

By Web Desk
April 02, 2023
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zehra Baloch speaking during the weekly briefing on January 19, 2023. — Radio Pakistan
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zehra Baloch speaking during the weekly briefing on January 19, 2023. — Radio Pakistan

After the trade secretary, Foreign Office (FO) has also denied having any diplomatic or trade relations with Israel on the country's behalf.

"There is no change in the policy, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told The News.

The clarification came in light of a recent statement by the American Jewish Congress (AJC) regarding the purported offloading of a shipment carrying Pakistani-originated food products in Israel.

Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce said that the AJC's press release was wrongly attributed as it does not make any mention of Pakistan's official trade relations with Israel.

"Rumours about beginning of Pakistan-Israel trade are pure propaganda. We neither have nor do we intend to start trade relations with Israel," the spokesperson said.

Earlier, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Sualeh Ahmad Faruqui had also confirmed that Pakistan did not send any export consignment to Israel, and any claims suggesting otherwise are merely disinformation for political purposes.

The customs officials at the Karachi Port also seconded the trade secretary's statement.

On March 30, the American Jewish Congress released a statement on "trade between the State of Israel and Pakistan" claiming that the first shipment from the country had been recieved in Israel.

"This week, the first shipment of Pakistan-origin food products was offioaded in Israel, in a transaction that involved Pakistani-Jewish businessman Fishel Benkhald, based in Pakistan's business hub of Karachi, and three Israeli businessmen from Jerusalem and Haifa," the statement read.

It also stated that the alleged trade was widely reported by both Pakistani and international media.

The AJC had stated that the two nations didn't have diplomatic ties yet but their entrepreneurs and technologists "have forged ahead in pursuit of common prosperity".

"Thanks to this initiative [alleged first trade] eighteen years ago, constraints and licenses that restricted Israel-Pakistan trade were abolished," it added. 

Facts about ‘Pak-Israel trade’

Fishel BenKhald is a Pakistani citizen from Sindh with a Jewish background who is a strong proponent of trade ties between Israel and Pakistan. He is engaged in the business of the Kosher food industry. 

On March 28, Fishel claimed to have exported the first consignment of dates, dry fruit and spices from Pakistan to Israel via the UAE. He congratulated himself on being the first Pakistani to be able to export Pakistani products to Israel.

The shipment was offloaded in Israel through a private transaction of the Pakistani-Jewish businessman and the deal was struck and shipment was booked in the United Arab Emirates, not from Pakistan. Moreover, the shipment was marked for the UAE and not Israel. Israel removed the restriction of import licenses for Pakistani products in 2005. So, there was no need for any special licenses or permits to conduct this trade.

Despite the fact the "trade" was not a direct trade on Pakistan's behalf, the matter was unduly highlighted and treated as official trade.