Pakistan’s pro-Israel lobby seems undeterred by the Imran Khan government’s continual denials about Islamabad establishing any relations with the Jewish state. The ruling party’s antagonism against such speculation, however, has only resulted in more voices calling for closer ties with Israel.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi after returning from his Dubai trip recently put an end to the speculation by denying any plans of talks with Israel, saying such a move is contingent upon a permanent resolution of the Palestine issue.
However, it has not helped stop the rumours. There is even speculation of Israeli jets landing in Islamabad and secret meetings taking place in Tel Aviv. The speculations are primarily fed by some Pakistani journalists appearing on Israeli TV besides some prominent ulema (religious scholars).
One such prominent scholar Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani created a storm in Pakistan when he overtly advocated for establishing diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
A video shared by a social media user quoted him as saying: “I am in favour of accepting Israel because accepting Israel isn’t a religion but a political and international issue.” He quoted from the Quran to support his argument while criticizing his part leader Fazlur Rehman.
Another well-known pro-Israel ambassador, Noor Dahri, shared morphed pictures of the alleged meeting between Pakistani and Israeli officials in Tel Aviv. He accused PM Imran Khan of sending a secret delegation to Israel to initiate diplomatic relations with the country.
Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, one more prominent religious figure in Pakistan also indicated to Israeli TV that the normalization wasn’t so bad after all.
What added fuel to the fire was the confession by a Pakistani cleric Maulana Ajmal Qadri when he claimed he had visited Israel in 1988, acting under the directions of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ‘test the waters’ for a potential normalization in relations between the two countries. “It was kind of a study tour,” the former Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader told Pakistan’s SAMAA TV.
Qadri’s statement has made the room for the ruling party to deflect the blame on their predecessors, while unequivocally denying that they are in favour of any kind of normalization in relations with Israel.
Experts say that while it was possible in the autocratic Gulf countries with no freedom of expression to recognize Israel without any public outcry, the same cannot be said about Pakistan.
There is less chance, therefore, that Pakistan will take any such step since the country has already severed its relations with the US-led bloc and turned to China for all its needs.
Israel, therefore, holds less relevance for Imran Khan and considering the public opinion at home is heavily against normalizing relations with Israel and will possibly destabilize the government, any kind of relationship with the Jewish state is, therefore, out of the question.