24.03.2024 Author: Abbas Hashemite

Pakistan’s Shambolic Israel Policy

Pakistan’s Shambolic Israel Policy

Pakistan is one of the few countries which have not accepted Israel. The country’s opposition to Israel even predates the independence of Pakistan as Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of the country, was always against the creation of a Zionist state in Palestine. He even declared Israel to be an illegitimate state. Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Israel today is predicated on the fundamental principles laid out by its founding fathers. The country unequivocally supported Palestine throughout its history. Article 40 of the constitution of Pakistan also binds the policymakers of the nation to support all Muslim nations. However, recent events and revelations of a senior Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir, portend a significant shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Israel.

In 1947, Mr. Jinnah voted against the partition plan for Palestine in the United Nations. David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, invited Mr. Jinnah to establish diplomatic ties between the two countries. However, the proposal was repudiated by the latter. Events suggest that Pakistan’s establishment adopted a divergent approach towards Israel soon after the demise of the founding father of the nation. Moshe Yegar, an Israeli historian, mentioned in 2007 that the Israeli leadership, in the 1950s, fallaciously believed that diplomatic relations between the two sides could be established sooner. However, this perception was soon turned down by the then-foreign minister of Pakistan in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart in London. He held that the establishment of ties between the two states was impossible due to the pro-Palestine sentiment among a vast majority of Pakistanis. Zafarullah also cited pressure from hardliners as one of the major reasons behind Pakistan’s refusal to recognize. Yegar also revealed that Zafarullah, however, anticipated the possibility of bilateral visits of experts and students from the two sides.

Although public sentiment is one of the key reasons behind Pakistan’s decades of opposition to Israel, the Kashmir issue is also one of the determining factors in the country’s foreign policy decisions regarding the Palestine issue. Pakistan has always held a similar position towards both issues internationally. Policymakers and experts in Pakistan believe that its divergence on the Palestine issue will prove detrimental to the country’s stance over the Kashmir dispute in the United Nations. Pakistan even declared Israel a “thieving country” in 1962. Pakistan sent a group of pilots to help the Arab countries in 1967 in the six-day war between Israel and the Arab states. Pakistani pilots Abdul Sattar Alvi and Saiful Azam collectively shot down 4 Israeli planes in 1967 and 1974.

Pakistan also established unwavering rapport with the largest anti-Israel organization – the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), during the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In 1974, Pakistan even recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, along with agreeing to provide military training to the PLO members. However, this policy was revised under the rule of Zia ul Haq. In the book “Behind the Veil,” Shlomo Brom, an Israeli author, revealed that Zia played a major role in the readmission of Egypt into the Arab world after it was boycotted by the Arab world due to its establishment of cordial ties with Israel. American Journalist George Crile also held in one of his writings that the Zia dictatorship clandestinely worked with Israel during the Soviet-Afghan war.

Pakistan’s nuclear has always been a thorn in the eyes of the United States and its allies, especially Israel. In 1986, Israel and India colluded to jointly attack Pakistan’s nuclear installations. However, Pakistan’s significance due to its pro-American role in the Cold War compelled the US to intervene and hamper these attacks. After Zia’s death in a plane crash, Pakistan once again restored its relations with the PLO. Pakistan even backed the PLO in its negotiations with Israel. Numerous claims have been made in the past regarding an alleged secret cooperation between Pakistan and Israel at certain levels after the year 2000. However, no evidence has ever surfaced.

Many claim that some powerful elites of Pakistan seek to alter the country’s foreign policy outlook towards Israel. Anxiety among the Pakistani population rose high after the Abraham Accords. Rumors circulated that Pakistan is preparing itself to recognize Israel. The visit of some Pakistani expats to Israel, including a former minister and a journalist, stirred furor throughout the country. Islamabad immediately distanced itself from the visit, citing it as a private visit. Hamid Mir, a senior journalist in Pakistan, revealed that the Former Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was being pressured by some of his cabinet members and the powerful elite of the country to recognize Israel. However, he rejected this proposition and chose to stick by the principles laid by the founding father of the nation.

Pakistan has recently supported Palestinians in the United Nations against the war crimes being committed by Israel in Gaza. However, many view Pakistan’s dealing with the issue with huge skepticism. Pakistan’s policy on the recent conflict seems to be a bit softer than usual. What amazed the world after October 7 was the fact that it was South Africa, not any Muslim country, that registered a case against Israel’s genocidal operations in the ICJ. Although Pakistan supported South Africa’s plea in the ICJ, it is believed to be taking calculated steps. Domestically, no political party, including Imran Khan’s PTI, other than the Islamic parties of the country held significant protests against Israel’s war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Gaza. This manifests that Pakistan’s mainstream political parties no longer want the Palestine issue to remain a relevant issue in domestic politics. By this, they seek to diminish the significance of the issue among the populace of the country.

Pakistan’s submission to ICJ has also been criticized by many observers. Fatima Bhutto, an international author and the granddaughter of Former Pakistani Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in her post on the social media platform X, has lamented Pakistan for seeking a two-state solution to the issue in its ICJ submission. She held that since Pakistan never recognized Israel, who are the two states? Astonishingly, pro-Palestine slogans and Palestinian flags were banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board inside the stadiums during recent Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches, which resulted in sparking outrage among the citizens. #BoycottPSL remained the top trend on social media platform X after videos of snatching Palestinian flags from the crowd surfaced on social media.

Pakistan’s powerful elite seems to be making calculated decisions because a swift change in the country’s stance towards Israel could lead to unexpected, serious consequences. Pakistan’s Islamic Political parties, especially Jamaat e Islami, and Tehreek E Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), held massive rallies against the Israeli atrocities in Gaza. TLP holds massive street power in Pakistan. The country’s governments in the past have been forced by the TLP to come to a knee and fulfill its demands multiple times. The party holds a hardline approach to the issues related to Islam. Saad Rizvi, the party chief, has already warned the government of dire consequences in case of any change in its policy towards Israel. His party also enjoys support from some well-known scholars of other sects in the country. Therefore, Pakistan’s recognition of Israel could result in turmoil inside the country, which will prove detrimental to the political and economic stability of the country. Furthermore, any such move will also debilitate the Kashmir cause.


Abbas Hashemite – is a political observer and research analyst for regional and global geopolitical issues. He is currently working as an independent researcher and journalist, exclusively for “New Eastern Outlook”.

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