Pakistan's Khan slams rumours of Israel normalisation as 'fake news'
Speaking to the local TV station Samaa on Friday, Khan said that Pakistan would not recognise Israel until Palestinian rights have been guaranteed.
His comments came after a pro-Israeli Pakistani counterterrorism expert and a UK political scientist who contributes to a Pakistani newspaper reported that a high-ranking official from the Pakistani government visited Israel in November.
The Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom also reported last Tuesday that "a senior adviser to the leader of a large Muslim-majority country" had visited Israel, without naming the country.
Speaking to Samaa TV, however, Khan dismissed the reports as "absolutely fake news".
“Why would anyone go from Pakistan when it’s our policy that we don’t recognise Israel? What’s a minister going to do there?” Khan said.
“Pakistan is a democratic society - and our entire nation stands with the Palestinians,” the Pakistani leader added.
On a visit to the UAE, which signed its own normalisation deal with Israel in September, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also denied reports that Pakistani and Israeli officials had met.
Last Wednesday Zulfikar Bukhari, Khan's special assistant for overseas Pakistanis, rejected rumours that he had visited Israel.
On Tuesday, Noor Dahri, the founder of the Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT) think tank and a self-proclaimed "Muslim Zionist" tweeted that a "close aide" of Imran Khan had travelled from Islamabad to Tel Aviv via London.
He had been "warmly welcomed" by Israeli officials, Dahri claimed, and had expressed Pakistan’s desire for closer ties with Israel. However, he also said that the building of relations would have to be "soft" and "slow" according to Dahri, because of opposition among the Pakistani population.
Dahri also said that relations between Pakistan on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the other had become increasingly tense, with Pakistan having to repay loans to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where millions of Pakistanis work, banning work visas for citizens of Pakistan in November.
Pakistan’s close links with Turkey have been one source of tension with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Dahri added that Pakistan’s increasing isolation had caused it to seek better relations with Israel, which normalised relations with four Arab countries in 2020 – Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the UAE.
Dahri’s claims were backed by Shama Junejo, a political scientist at the University of Leicester in the UK who writes for Pakistan’s Daily Khabrain newspaper.
Junejo tweeted that while Pakistani military sources denied Dahri’s reports, he had "cross-checked" and other sources had confirmed that a senior advisor to the Pakistani government had travelled to Israel on November 20.
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