The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pervez’s Israel hint raises Pak hackles

Islamabad, July 17: Syeda Abida Hussein, one of Pakistan’s veteran politicians, had in the mid-90s kicked off a storm by suggesting that if Palestinians were getting along with Israelis, why should Pakistan remain hostile to the Jewish state'

This time around, President Pervez Musharraf is facing a similar storm for suggesting that Pakistan should recognise Israel.

After a one-to-one meeting with President George W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, earlier this month, Musharraf had hinted at the possibility of Israel’s recognition by saying: “We are watching the situation in West Asia” and everybody would like to see an end to the Palestinian problem.

His remarks sparked a heated debate in Pakistan with most observers saying that Israel’s recognition is just a matter of time.

Traditionally, Pakistan has linked recognition with the end of hostilities against Palestinians and removal of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

However, most people in the country have been suspicious about the government’s intentions after a foreign ministry spokesman said Pakistan was carefully observing the “evolving situation” in West Asia.

According to a Pakistan television channel poll, a large majority support the recognition while a small minority fear it would prove “strategically” disastrous for the country.

Opposition parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance in particular, suspect that the Americans may have put an Israel recognition condition on the delivery of the $3 billion aid package. The US would like to see Pakistan resume ties with Israel after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Also, the growing proximity between India and Israel cannot be overlooked by the Pakistan establishment.

“The government has almost decided to recognise Israel,” veteran politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan told The Telegraph. “The way the government is (informally) enumerating the merits of (of recognising Israel) shows their intent to establish diplomatic relations with a state which has always preferred to connive with India to cause a serious blow to Pakistan’s security and strategic interests,” he said.

However, several prominent analysts, like retired General Talat Masood, have said recognition of Israel would be a definite advantage for Pakistan as it would neutralise Tel Aviv’s hostility towards Islamabad.

However, Masood cautions about the timing of the decision.

“What I am saying is that it will not be wise to take up new issues when the plate is already full. Consensus can be built on the Israel issue once the government sorts out its domestic political problems.” Former ISI chief General Hameed Gul, a known pan-Islamist, said recognition of Israel would be harmful to Pakistan’s security and strategic interests.

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