Former Pakistani government minister visits Israel

Nasim Ashraf leads delegation from country with no diplomatic relations with Israel

A general view shows a part of Jerusalem's Old City including the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque. REUTERS
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A delegation of Pakistanis, including a former government minister, met Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the leader of the group and trip organisers said.

Pakistan is among the countries with no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the lingering issue of Palestinian statehood, and says no government delegation has visited Israel.

The latest trip organiser says the those who travelled included representatives from the American Muslims and Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council and Sharaka, a US-based non-government group founded after the signing of the Abraham Accords, which was brokered by the Trump administration in 2020 and normalised relations between Israel and four Arab countries — the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

“Yes, I am in Jerusalem with a delegation to promote interfaith harmony,” Nasim Ashraf, the head of the delegation, told AP by phone. He refused to give any further details about other members of the delegation. Mr Ashraf used to be Pakistan’s development minister and chairman of the Pakistani Cricket Board.

The trip comes more than three months after journalist Ahmed Quraishi, who also travelled to Jerusalem to promote interfaith harmony, was taken off the air by the Pakistan Television Corporation after his visit.

Anila Ali, a Pakistani-born US citizen who lives in America and was one of the organisers of this week's trip, told AP that Mr Ashraf was in Jerusalem to promote interfaith harmony.

She said establishing diplomatic ties with Israel would be in Pakistan's best national interest.

She said Turkey was a good example for Pakistan, as Turkish leadership had established diplomatic ties with Israel in their national interest. “If Turkey can do it, then why can't we do it?” she said.

Ms Ali said Israel could guide and help Pakistan in improving the country’s irrigation system after the latest flooding, which has caused 1,569 deaths since mid-June.

Updated: September 22, 2022, 11:06 AM