Tel Aviv, Israel:
According to Sergio Restelli, a political advisor, author and geopolitical expert, Pakistani anchor Ahmed Quraishi’s visit to Israel was a move to mask Pakistan’s calculated move to reach out to Jerusalem without inviting public ire, especially those of hardliners.
Quraishi was part of a delegation of Pakistani-Americans to Israel on a goodwill visit. Another Pakistani citizen in the delegation was a Jewish citizen, Fishel Benkhald.
Since PTV is a government-run broadcaster, Quraishi’s presence in Israel has raked up a small storm of sorts with the government and opposition leaders denying and condemning the action. But no one in the present government, and in the previous government, is willing to clarify how an anchor in a government-run broadcaster, even if on contract, could go to Israel without the state’s permission, said Restelli writing in The Times of Israel.
This question assumes significance in the presence of Fishel Benkhald who was the first Pakistani to get official permission to visit holy Jewish sites from the Imran Khan government.
He also dispatched a confidante with two messages, one to the Prime Minister of Israel and another from General Qamar Bajwa to the Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, in Tel Aviv in November 2020. The confidante was Zulfi Bukhari, a close aide of Imran Khan.
According to Pakistani broadcaster, Geo TV, Bukhari stayed in Tel Aviv for a few days in working out the modalities of laying the ground for breaking the ice between the two countries, reported The Times of Israel.
Pakistan has been reaching out to Israel since the Zia-ul Haq days. Foreign Minister, Khurshid Kasuri met his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in Turkey in 2005. The same year, then President, and Army chief, Pervez Musharraf, met Israeli President, and veteran soldier, Ariel Sharon in New York.
Although the meeting did not result in a breakthrough, the relationship took a deeper direction. In fact, it is an open secret in the political and military circles about Pakistan’s clandestine moves to open relations with Israel.
For Pakistan, the Israeli bone has been a difficult one to digest. Several Muslim majority countries, including Pakistan, had kept away from Israel on the issue of Palestine.
In 2020, the equation changed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain breaking ranks, and signing a US-brokered deal, the Abraham Accords, with Israel. Morocco and Sudan joined the signatories to Abraham Accords.
These changes leave Pakistan isolated in the Islamic world, considering the fact it has been trying, with little success, for over four decades, to find a way to engage with Jerusalem, without upsetting its image of an austere Sunni country and an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause.