Cover Story


Most people in Pakistan know very well there will be a severe backlash if the
country were to take the same course as the UAE and other Muslim countries.

By Nazarul Islam | February 2021


It is difficult to imagine a bilateral relationship between Israel, a Jewish state, and Pakistan, the world’s second largest Muslim nation. Several efforts have been made to initiate and promote a political relationship between the two nations. Considering the geopolitical dynamics, whenever there is talk of Israel and Pakistan coming together, there are overwhelming outside pressures.

Although Israel is a Jewish state, the country and its people are backed by Christians. Therefore, Muslims have reasons to believe that whenever Christians want to help Jews, it is related to some animosity towards Muslims.

The Pakistan Prime Minister says he is under severe pressure to recognize Israel but he will not do so in light of Pakistan’s support of the Palestinian struggle and its own efforts to liberate Kashmir. For strategic reasons, Pakistan has long had covert relations with Israel, as did the UAE and other Gulf states. General Zia ul Haq, reportedly, opened a back channel between Israel’s Mossad and Pakistan’s ISI and the two agencies worked with the U.S. against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

In 2005, during Musharraf’s time, both Pakistani and Turkish military leaderships had brokered the first-ever official contact between Israel and Pakistan. This was a meeting between Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers in Istanbul.

There has also been talk of channels of communication being opened between Pakistan and Israel during the tenures of Prime Ministers Suharwardy and Benazir Bhutto.

What stands in the way of normalization is Islamabad’s long history of drawing a parallel with Kashmir. Normalizing ties with Israel before resolving the Palestinian issue would certainly rob Pakistan of its justification to claim Kashmir. Imran Khan has called deals between the Gulf states and Israel as ‘pointless’. The feeling in Pakistan is that the Gulf countries have abandoned their traditional support for pan-Islamic causes, like Kashmir and Palestine.

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