The Foreign Office denies allegations of a Pakistani group visiting Israel

On Thursday, the Foreign Office “categorically dismissed” reports of a Pakistani delegation visiting Israel, reiterating that the country’s stance on the matter has not changed.

According to FO spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, the alleged visit was organized by a non-Pakistan-based foreign non-governmental organization (NGO).

The announcement comes one day after foreign media outlets reported that a “Pakistani delegation,” including a former minister, met with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem.

Representatives from the American Muslims and Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council and Sharaka, a US-based non-governmental organization founded in the wake of the Abraham Accords, which the Trump administration brokered in 2020 and normalized relations between Israel and four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco — were included in the delegation, according to the trip’s organizer.

The article also included a remark from the head of the group, Naseem Ashraf, who stated that the delegation was in Jerusalem to “promote interfaith cooperation.”

“He refused to provide additional information about other delegation members. According to the report, Ashraf once served as Pakistan’s development minister and chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Pakistan does not recognize Israel and hence has no diplomatic ties with it. However, the country has consistently supported the establishment of a Palestinian state.

After the Abraham accords, Pakistan made it plain that it could not recognize Israel until a “fair settlement” was reached in the Palestinian conflict.

In today’s remarks, the FO spokesperson stated that Pakistan’s position on the Palestinian issue was unambiguous and crystal clear.

“Our policy, on which there is a unanimous national consensus, has not changed in any way”. He clarified that Pakistan staunchly supports the Palestinian people’s intrinsic right to self-determination.

Ahmad added that establishing an independent, viable, and contiguous Palestinian State with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, following the relevant United Nations and Organization of Islamic Cooperation resolutions, was “essential for a just and durable peace in the region.”

Several Pakistani expats and a couple of residents traveled to Israel as part of a group earlier this year, sparking controversy.

The same non-profit organization organized the tour. Anila Ali, the group’s organizer, told Dawn they had secured special clearance from the PTI government for one of their Pakistani members to travel to Israel. She added that they guaranteed that he would not be persecuted for visiting Israel.

The announcement was criticized by numerous parties, including the former PM of Pakistan and his party, Imran Khan. This led the government led by the PML-N to clarify that it had not sponsored or supported the delegation’s visit.

In parliament, press conferences, and public forums, issues were raised regarding the government’s position on the delegation’s visit to Israel. Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamaat-e-Islami demanded in the upper house of parliament that the nationality of expats who traveled to Israel be revoked and the NGO that supported their trip be outlawed.