LAHORE: Pakistan will refuse to recognize Israel until Palestinian rights are guaranteed, Prime Minister Imran Khan said.
In a wide-ranging interview with a local TV news channel on Friday, the Pakistani leader said: “Pakistan is a democratic society — and our entire nation stands with the Palestinians.”
Khan’s comments follow Israeli media reports this week that a “senior adviser to the leader of a large Muslim-majority country in Asia” had visited the Jewish state two weeks ago to discuss the potential normalization of relations.
The reports were widely interpreted as a veiled reference to Pakistan.
“We will never recognize Israel until the Palestinians get their rights,” Khan told a Samaa television interviewer.
“Why would anyone go from Pakistan when it’s our policy that we don’t recognize Israel?” he added.
“What’s a minister going to do there? This is absolutely fake news.”
Khan’s comments were broadcast hours after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, rejected reports the same day claiming Pakistan and Israeli officials had recently been in talks in Tel Aviv.
Qureshi was speaking to press during a state visit to Abu Dhabi.
On Wednesday, Zulfikar Bukhari, Khan’s special assistant for overseas Pakistanis, dismissed rumors that he had visited Israel after online reports of an alleged meeting went viral.
But Khan hinted on Friday that Pakistan was not “free” to make its own foreign policy decisions. He also claimed India was behind the disinformation “campaign” against his government.
Pakistan wants Israel to honor Palestinians’ hopes for a state of their own.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future free state, a demand Pakistan has supported for decades.
Earlier this week, the head of the Pakistan Ulema Council, Tahir Ashrafi, told Arab News the reports were an attempt to malign Pakistan in the Muslim world, and that Islamabad would not recognize Israel until a just solution to the Palestine conflict was found.
“It is the clear stance of Prime Minister Khan and his Cabinet,” Ashrafi said.
“The state of Pakistan, including our people, armed forces, institutions and government, are on the same page regarding this issue.”