ISLAMABAD: The question whether the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government is going to change Pakistan’s foreign policy toward Israel is now being asked frequently in different circles, after a number of developments took place after Imran Khan came into power in August last year.
Though the politically-motivated accusation against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan of being a Jewish agent has been dismissed by cross-sections of the society and the overwhelming majority of the people as baseless, the recent developments have raised concerns about PTI-led government’s policy towards Israel.
Since PTI took over in mid-August last year, a number of incidents have happened, which have unnerved common Pakistanis, who are very sensitive about the Palestine issue.
Rumours about Pakistan recognising Israel have been doing the rounds since October last year, when the editor of Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s English edition, Ami Scharf, claimed in a tweet that a private jet possibly carrying Israeli officials traveled to Islamabad from Tel Aviv.
— avi scharf (@avischarf) October 25, 2018
He had claimed the plane remained on the ground in the Pakistani capital for nearly 10 hours. However, government officials refuted the claims.
In November last year, an MNA from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Asma Hadeed proposed recognition of Israel in her speech in the National Assembly. The speech stirred a controversy with the staunch opponents of PTI reiterating the Jewish agent accusations.
In December last year, Pakistan’s Immigration and Passports office listed ‘Israel’ among the countries whose citizens needed to go through special checks in order to visit Pakistan. The appearance of the list on the website was surprising because Pakistan does not recognize Israel and there are no diplomatic ties between the two countries.
But at that time the FIA said that Israel was mistakenly listed among countries whose citizens can visit Pakistan. The Government spokesman had vehemently rejected the notion that the government was changing its policy towards Israel.
But despite clarifications from the FIA and the government’s spokesman the name of Israel is still in the list of countries on Interior Ministry’s websites whose citizen are allowed to visit Pakistan.
The FIA site provides the following instructions to citizens from seven countries, including Israel: “Register yourself with the foreigners’ registration branch of District Police Office (Special Branch) in the city/district of stay and get a Residential Permit for the period of stay. Before departure, don’t forget to surrender the Residential Permit to the same authority and get a Travel Permit.”
The issue of Israel once again surfaced after a Pakistani Jew thanked Foreign Office for allowing him to travel to Israel on a Pakistani passport. It is important to note here that Pakistani passport does not allow travel to Israel under any circumstances.
Fishel Benkhald tweeted:
Dear @ImranKhanPTI on 2-Jan Ministry of Foreign Affairs called to informing that I can visit Jerusalem Isreal on Pakistani passport
Im applying visa from Isreali embassy.
Thank u Dr Faisal @ForeignOfficePk @DrMFaisal@fawadchaudhry @BBhuttoZardari @OfficialDGISPR @peaceforchange pic.twitter.com/WookDyRlU6
— Fishel Benkhald (@Jew_Pakistani) January 23, 2019
Benkhald, who claims that his mother was Jewish, had earlier in 2017 got himself registered with the National Database and Registration Authority as a Jew after changing his religious status from that of a Muslim.
However, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman on Thursday reiterated that Pakistan’s position on the state of Israel remained unchanged. He was responding to questions about a Pakistani Jew who says he has received a go-ahead from Islamabad to apply for a visa to Israel.