Should always go with the interest; Saleem Mandviwalla to Pakistan

Pakistan does not recognise Israel and, therefore, doesn’t have diplomatic relations with it. The country has been a staunch supporter of demands for a Palestinian state.

After the Abraham accords — a deal brokered by the US in 2020 which saw normalisation of relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain — Pakistan had made clear that it cannot recognise Israel until a “just settlement of the Palestinian issue” is found.

However, in an exclusive interview with Dawn News, Mandviwalla, whose party is a part of the government, said: “We should not stop dialogue and trade with any country. People criticise Israel [but] we have to look after our own interests.”

He said all the Middle East nations were negotiating and trading with Israel, adding that Pakistan must also do what suits its own interest.

“It remains to be seen whether a deal with Israel is in Pakistan’s interest or not,” Mandviwalla added.

Similarly, he indicated that the door for dialogue should not be closed on Pakistan’s immediate neighbours, including India. “We have a border with India. Families live here. All three countries (India, Iran and Afghanistan) are important to us.”

Last month, the revelation that a number of Pakistani expats recently travelled to Israel as part of a delegation sparked a controversy, with former prime minister Imran Khan and his party adding the incident into their narrative of a foreign conspiracy against the previous government, and alleging that the trip had their successors’ tacit approval.

The issue was discussed at length in parliament as well as during press conferences and public meetings and portrayed as a political step by the government. The controversy was raised in the upper house of parliament by Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed who dema­n­d­­ed that the nationality of those expatriates who travelled to Israel be cancelled and the NGO that facilitated their visit be banned.

He said the visit of Ahmed Qureshi, who was working for state-run TV, as part of the delegation raised many questions and sought to know under which authority and on which travel documents he undertook the visit.

Information Minister Marri­yum Aurangzeb had also told a presser that PTV had terminated the contract of the TV anchorperson who visited Israel in his personal capacity.

‘Finding a way to reduce petrol prices’

During the interview with Dawn News, Mandviwalla also said that the government was seeking ways to reduce petrol prices. He suggested that a possible measure could be to deregulate petrol prices.

The senator also addressed the matter of former army chief Pervez Musharraf’s possible return to Pakistan due to his poor health.

“Many people think that Pervez Musharraf should not be forgiven. People do not forget what Pervez Musharraf did,” he said.

Mandviwalla said he could understand Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari’s, the daughter of the late Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari, thoughts on the matter, suggesting that PPP Senator Yousuf Raza Gilani’s statement on forgiving Musharraf could be his “personal opinion”.

The Bhutto scion had on Thursday criticised a tweet from Gilani’s daughter that had lauded her father and former prime minister’s pardoning of Musharraf.

“Highly insensitive tweet. Absolutely no bravery or place to forgive,” Bakhtawar had said.

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