While many base Pakistan’s enmity towards Israel on the latter’s post-1948 transgressions such as occupying Gaza and West Bank, military incursions in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of Arabs, building unlawful Israeli settlements, and innumerable other events, this is an incomplete story. Pakistan’s opposition to Israel can be traced back to Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, two of Pakistan’s founders, when the two nations were nonexistent.
Mr. Iqbal, Mr. Jinnah, and their political party worked selflessly toward the cause of Palestine after World War I, despite chasing the dream of Pakistan. They sent Indian Muslim delegations to aid with the Palestine question, built anti-British/Zionist momentum through scathing letters and speeches, passed countless resolutions for Palestine, organized Palestine Days, and started a Palestine Fund for Arab victims et cetera. They did so much, that on several occasions even the Grand Mufti of Palestine acknowledged their efforts.
Pakistan’s Current Situation
After the Abraham Accords in 2020, the Middle East’s already waning anger toward Israel dissolved further. In a shock move Oman, UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, recognized Israel. There were similar murmurings of Saudi Arabia being next as it was not possible for UAE, Bahrain, and Oman to recognize Israel without big brother Saudi Arabia’s blessing.
While in office, Pakistan’s ex-PM Imran Khan verified that he was fighting enormous exogenous pressures to recognize Israel. One of the nations placing such pressures, he asserted, was America, yet he abstained from referencing the other countries. However, he did note that they were close allies of Pakistan, which many perceived as Saudi Arabia and UAE. Imran Khan’s position on the Palestine issue, aptly, reflected that of Pakistan’s founders as evidenced by his statement that Pakistan cannot make any decisions on a matter which has been refused by the Palestinians.
Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa: A Semi-Closeted Zionist
In April 2022, Imran Khan was ousted through a no-confidence motion. Many in Pakistan, including the former PM, assert that the then-army chief Bajwa was behind this – this is no surprise as the military establishment has ruled for 33 years directly; and always indirectly. After Imran’s removal, information regarding how Bajwa was undermining the ex-PM became public knowledge. While the mainstream media remains largely muzzled, journalists, analysts, and even ex-army officers began unveiling Bajwa’s obfuscated plots via YouTube and Twitter. From ousting Imran Khan to jailing and even torturing critics (politicians and journalists alike), everything was exposed. Videos such as “Woh Kaun Tha?” (Who was he?) by investigative journalist Arshad Shareef, who was later murdered in Kenya under suspicious circumstances, went viral. The video (the original deleted) implied culpability towards Bajwa on his copious behind-the-scene ploys.
One specific area where Bajwa’s manoeuvrings were exposed was vis-à-vis recognizing Israel which Imran Khan was clearly against. This assertion grew more substantial when senior journalists revealed more information. For example, senior anchor Imran Riaz Khan, (unrelated to ex-PM Imran Khan), expressed that when Bajwa met journalists, he would state that Pakistan ought to soften its stance on Israel. Bajwa would express his bafflement in front of the journalists regarding how Arab states were normalizing relations but Pakistan persisted with a stringent anti-recognition of Israel policy. Imran Riaz also noted that while meeting journalists in a one-on-one environment, General Bajwa would push them to start a discussion on the potential of Pakistan-Israel relations on TV and/or social media.
Another senior anchor Hamid Mir expressed that General Bajwa was constantly undermining Imran Khan and was pushing him toward the recognition of Israel. Bajwa’s romance with Israel was additionally established when Hamid Mir wrote in an article, “Gen Bajwa also wanted to engage Israel but Imran Khan was reluctant.” On another anchor’s show on TV, Hamid Mir asserted that Imran Khan should take the name of the person who was pushing his administration to recognize Israel – signifying Bajwa. Due to this and various other conspiracies coming to light, Imran Khan’s popularity has peaked while Bajwa has become one of the most detested figures in Pakistan’s history.
Pakistani-American Delegations Visit Israel
When the new PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) government sponsored by and beholden to the army chief and the military establishment took charge, Bajwa’s pro-Israel policies seemed to manifest. In May 2022, a group of Pakistani-Americans visited Israel which set off tremors across Pakistan. Pakistanis were infuriated as this delegation, sponsored by Sharaka (a pro-Israel civil group), met with Israeli president Isaac Herzog. More concerning was that an anchor from PTV (Pakistan’s state telecaster), Ahmed Qureshi, was part of this group. Anila Ali, the head of the delegation gave the Israeli president a book on Pakistan’s founder, Mr. Jinnah – the irony being Mr. Jinnah’s feverish opposition to Zionism. Facing heavy reaction from the public, the PDM government declared that it did not send the group to Israel and that the delegates were dual nationals. They were forced to fire the PTV anchor, however.
A couple of months after this, a second Pakistani-American group sponsored again by Sharaka met the Israeli president. This designation was shockingly headed by Nasim Ashraf, a previous Pakistani minister (and another dual national). These two delegations touted that they were working for the cause of interfaith harmony but many analysts exclaimed conversely. For instance, Electronic Intifada notes “… the real purpose of these visits – typically led by Muslim Zionists – is to open a path to formal diplomatic and even military relations between Islamabad and Tel Aviv.” This is further proven by Sharaka and other like-minded groups’ ties to US government institutes as well as Zionist organizations – the implication being that such groups can be and are used surreptitiously by US-Israel agencies.
Raza Rumi of the Pakistani publication Naya Daur notes: “There must be some debate going on, and this visit was just a testing-the-waters-type visit.” Such delegations are utilized to measure public perception as well as influence it. For instance, in 2017 an interfaith group of Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus from Bahrain visited Jerusalem, three years before Bahrain began diplomatic relations with Israel.
Lastly, the timing of these delegations visiting Israel is suspect as they occurred shortly after the pro-Palestine PM Imran Khan was removed from office, and Bajwa, then chief and still a Zionist could pull strings freely.
Will Pakistan Accept Israel?
Pakistan is nearing economic default, industries are shutting down, terrorism is rising once more, and inflation is wreaking havoc. Perhaps the Israel-US nexus could offer monetary relief and perhaps later military aid in exchange for recognition – this might sway the government to build a pro-Israel narrative to sell to the public. Since most of the debilitated PDM government is indebted to Bajwa because of their myriad corruption charges magically evaporating after they assumed power, this might be plausible. Furthermore, the PDM government has realigned towards the US, as Bajwa wanted, which was under threat when Imran Khan was PM. For Israel to attain nuclear Pakistan’s recognition would be a political masterstroke. Netanyahu is on record as claiming that Pakistan is the biggest threat to Israel behind Iran.
Although Bajwa is no longer the army chief, Asim Muneer, his replacement, is accused of being Bajwa’s veritable arm and vehemently anti-Imran Khan as well. Recognizing Israel would be an affront to Pakistan’s revered founders, to the resilient Palestinians, and to the Muslim world. Pakistan’s founding fathers drew a glaring line in the sand when it came to Israel – to cross beyond this pale would be an outright moral catastrophe for the country.
This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Matildo Khan.