Govt person talks of considering potential ties with Israel

Saleem Mandviwalla says most of Mideast countries are already negotiating and trading with Israel Suggests deregulating fuel prices

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Saleem Mandviwalla on Saturday said Pakistan must reassess its ties with Israel and take the deal that is in its own interest.

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, talking to a private news channel, Mandviwalla, whose party is a part of the unity 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 countries 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 and a couple of citizens 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-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, who demanded that the nationality of those expatriates of Pakistani origin who travelled to Israel be cancelled and the non-governmental organisation that facilitated their visit be banned.

He said the visit of Ahmed Qureshi, working for the 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 the PTV had terminated the contract of the anchorperson who visited Israel in his personal capacity. Media outlets reported that Qureshi was part of the Pakistani-American delegation. During the interview, 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 late Benazir Bhutto’s daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari’s thoughts on the matter, suggesting that PPP Senator Yousaf 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.