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November 28, 2020

Civil, military establishments united against recognising Israel

Top Story

November 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The media --the social media in particular -- has been flooded in recent days with highly speculative but mostly fake stories about a review of Pakistan’s Israel policy. The stories have been dragging in the names of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which has been hurting Islamabad’s brotherly relations with the Islamic nations.

In background interactions with The News, at least two high-profile civil government functionaries have categorically denied that there is any pressure on Pakistan, either from Saudi Arabia or the UAE, to recognise Israel. The two functionaries, who interacted on the issue with this correspondent, are in close contact with the authorities both in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in connection with tasks assigned to them by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

These sources insist that the growing perception that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are exerting pressure on Pakistan to recognise Israel, is absolutely wrong. “It upsets the Saudi and the UAE authorities,” a source said, complaining that sometimes the mainstream media discusses speculative stories while the social media is playing a highly disruptive role.

“Some of the ‘YouTubers’ here are spreading fake stories and have been speculating even to the extent of suggesting the possible toppling of governments and the arrest of rulers of brethren countries,” the source said. Social media forums, he said, are massively used for speculation and fake stories. Most social media users, it is said, don’t realise how they are being used to hurt the interests of Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has already made it clear that Pakistan will not recognise Israel until the just resolution of the Palestine issue. Pakistan’s foreign ministry has also reiterated that the country is not considering recognising the state of Israel. Recently, the foreign ministry spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri categorically rejected baseless speculation regarding the possibility of recognition of the State of Israel by Pakistan.

“Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination,” said the statement, which was in line with the country’s position on the conflict. “For a just and lasting peace, it is imperative to have a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State.”

There is widespread speculation that while Prime Minister Imran Khan is opposed to the recognition of Israel, the military establishment thinks differently. This speculation got weightage because of the pro-Israel views expressed recently by professionals in the media, including retired generals, known for their close connections to the military establishment.

However, military sources categorically deny such stories and support Pakistan’s stated policy. Lt Gen (R) Amjad Shoaib when asked told The News that he initially also held views in favour of recognising Israel but after his interaction with GHQ and the Foreign Office, he had changed his mind and had come round to supporting the stated policy of the Government of Pakistan.

General Amjad said that he recently talked to top military officials who categorically told him that neither is there any pressure on the military establishment from any foreign country to recognise Israel nor is the establishment in favour of any change in the country’s policy on Palestine and Israel.

The retired general said that the military establishment firmly believes that Pakistan’s Palestine policy should remain unchanged. He said he was told only a few days ago that all speculation about the military exerting pressure for the recognition of Israel is untrue and baseless.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have been supporting Pakistan through thick and thin. Besides supporting Pakistan generously in terms of financial grants, donations and investment, millions of Pakistanis are working in these countries and are a source of earning huge remittances for Pakistan. It is said that there are over four million Pakistanis working in the GCC countries. Pakistan annually receives over US$ 9 billion as remittance from workers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE alone.

The Pakistan government has already suggested to its workers in the GCC countries to respect the laws and traditions of their respective host states and not get involved in social media speculation and politics about the governments and rulers of those countries.

It is said that Pakistan could have benefitted far more if our successive governments and diplomatic corps had the right focus. Yet the GCC countries’ contribution to Pakistan is enormous and thus should not be disturbed by speculation and fake stories. The sources said that India, Israel and some other international players are conspiring to disturb Pakistan’s relations with the GCC countries. “We should not become tools, intentionally or unintentionally, for fanning such a conspiracy” a source warned while referring to what is being circulated on social media and believed by many to be the ‘truth’.