Thursday June 01, 2023

No Pakistani delegation visiting Israel: FO

The reported visit in question was organized by a foreign NGO, which is not based in Pakistan, says FO

September 23, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday categorically declared that no Pakistani delegation was visiting Israel.

“The reported visit in question was organized by a foreign NGO, which is not based in Pakistan,” said the Foreign Office in response to media reports first carried by the Israeli media. “Pakistan’s position on the Palestinian issue is clear and unambiguous. There is no change whatsoever in our policy on which there is complete national consensus.”

These media reports, quoting the leader of the group and trip organisers, claimed that Pakistanis, including a former government minister, met Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem. However, the statement did not clarify whether Nasim Ashraf, a former Pakistani minister, was a dual national. Pakistani passports do not allow visits to Israel, which is not officially recognized. Many Pakistanis who have visited Israel in the past have been dual nationals.

The trip organiser said on Wednesday that the delegation included representatives from American Muslims, Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council and Sharaka, a US-based non-government group founded in the wake of Abraham Accords, which were brokered by the Trump administration in 2020 and normalised relations between Israel and four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

“Yes, I am in Jerusalem with a delegation to promote interfaith harmony,” Nasim Ashraf, former minister and head of the delegation, told the media. He refused to give any further details about other members of the delegation.

Ashraf used to be Pakistan’s development minister and chairman of the Pakistani Cricket Board. The trip comes more than three months after journalist Ahmed Quraishi, who also travelled to Jerusalem to promote “interfaith harmony,” was taken off the air by Pakistan Television after his visit.

Anila Ali, a Pakistani-born US citizen who lives in the United States and is one of the trip organisers, urged Pakistan to establish diplomatic ties with Israel that would be in its best national interest. She said Türkiye was a good example for Pakistan, as Turkish leadership established diplomatic ties with Israel in their national interest. “If Türkiye can do it, then why cannot we do it,” she asked.

Ali said Israel could guide and help Pakistan in improving the country’s irrigation system in the wake of latest flooding, which has caused 1,569 deaths since mid-June. “Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination. The establishment of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian State with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions, is imperative for just and lasting peace in the region,” reiterated the Foreign Office.