Pakistan’s former military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf’s call for recognizing Israel—which according to him, is in the country’s interest—has invoked widespread criticism from political and religious parties.
“No patriotic Pakistani can even think to recognize the Zionist state, which has been created on the dead bodies of Palestinians”, Syed Munawwar Hassan, chief of Jammat-e-Islami, one of the largest Islamic parties in Pakistan, told “Islam Online”, while reacting to Musharraf’s interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz in London last Saturday.
In his interview, the General contended that getting closer to Israel would be in the better interest of Pakistan, and it could help muster the support of the powerful Jewish lobby with a view to resolving the Kashmir dispute with India.
Defying popular sentiment
Musharraf, whose warrants have been issued by a Pakistani court for his involvement in the assassination of two-time premier Benazir Bhutto, admitted that during his reign i.e. from October 1999 to August 2008, he defied the popular sentiment in Pakistan when he shook hands with former Israeli Prime Minister Aerial Sharon at the United Nations, and then sent the then Foreign Minister Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri, who has recently joined hands with cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, to meet the then Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Istanbul.
Musharraf was the first Pakistani leader who was invited to address the influential World Jewish Congress in the US in 2005.
“Israel is an illegitimate state, which has been established with the help of US and other Western powers on Palestinian land”, Munawwar said commenting on Musharraf’s contention that both Pakistan and Israel are ideological states.
“There is no comparison between Pakistan and Israel. Pakistan has been established on the basis of principles and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, whereas Jews from all over the world were gathered to usurp Palestinian land”, he maintained.
Musharraf who plans to return to Pakistan in late January 2012, also said that he was a fan of Aerial Sharon, who is responsible for thousands of deaths in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982.
“Musharraf’s statement in favor of the killer of thousands of innocent men, women and children, has shocked not only Palestinians, but the entire Muslim world”, Munawwar maintained.
Hafiz Hussein Ahmed, a senior leader of Jamiat Ulema Islam, a religious party that has a strong vote bank in northwestern Khyber Pkahtunkhuwa (KP), and southwestern Balochistan provinces, agrees.
“Musharraf’s efforts are part of an international agenda aimed at getting Israel recognized by Pakistan”, Hussein, a former deputy parliamentary leader of his party, told “Islam Online”.
Hamid Mir, an Islamabad-based political analyst agrees with Hussein.
Mir claims that a close friend of Musharraf, Dr. Nasim Ashraf, a former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, had lobbied for him with the Jewish lobby in the US.
"Ashraf personally contacted me a few years back and tried to convince me to launch a campaign in favor of Pakistan -Israel diplomatic relations," Mir told “Islam Online”.
"He told me that it is in Pakistan’s interest to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. He promised to take me to Israel as well".
"Musharraf had asked the Foreign Office in early 2007 to prepare a plan for the recognition of Israel, but it did not go through due to the political turmoil which took place in March 2007," Mir claims.
Politicians and analysts observe that the recognition of Israel at this stage will harm Pakistan’s interests in many ways.
“The first and foremost victim of Israeli’s recognition will be Pakistan’s principle on occupied Kashmir”, Dr. Shameem Akhtar, a Karachi-based veteran and political analyst, told “Islam Online”.
Pakistan and India have fought two full-fledged wars in 1948, and 1965, and a three-week long Kargil skirmish in 1999 on Kashmir. Currently, Pakistan controls one-thirds of the valley, while the remaining part has been under Indian control since 1947, the year the two nations separated.
Dr. Akhtar, who is also a former chairman of the international relations department in the University of Karachi, opines that Pakistan would lose the support of Arabs (both people and governments), who are its real benefactors and stand alongside it in testing times.
Akhtar doesn’t give any importance to the recognition of Israel by some Arab countries such as Jordan.
“These states had recognized the Zionist state because of defeat in war. But, the people of those countries did not accept that, and the ongoing Arab spring is a testimony to the fact”, Dr. Akhtar contended referring to victory of the movements in various Arab countries, particularly in Egypt, where Muslim Brotherhood, and Salafi Movement have jointly grabbed nearly 60 per cent of votes.
He observes that recognizing Israel would hugely benefit the Zionist state at a time when it is becoming isolated in the region.
“Look at the region, not only in Egypt or Jordan, but also in Turkey, once the most trustable ally of the Zionist state in region”, Dr. Akhtar pointed out, citing the bitter relations between Israel and Turkey on the Palestinian issue.
“We must not fly against the wind”, he suggested. “A thumping majority of Arab states, including the OIC, do not recognize Israel. Even those who recognize Israel are reviewing their policies. Therefore, recognizing the Zionist state at this stage would not be a wise decision”.
Another threat, Pakistan has been facing from Israel is vis-à-vis its nuclear program, Dr. Akhtar opined.
“Whether Pakistan recognizes Israel or not, there would be no change in Israel’s policy vis-à-vis Pakistan’s nuclear program. Both countries will remain at loggerheads on nuclear issue as Israel does not want any nuclear state in the region, whether it is Pakistan or Iran”, he maintained.
He, however, does not agree with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmedinejad’s stance regarding the elimination of Israel from the world map.
“My view is that if Israel resolves the Palestinian issue in accordance with the SC resolutions, then Pakistan should recognize Israel in consultation with Arab states”, he added.