ISLAMABAD: Any change in Pakistan’s Palestine policy can undermine its position on India-held Kashmir, cautioned current and former heads of the National Assembly’s panel on foreign affairs on Wednesday.

Committee chairman Ehsanullah Tiwana and Awais Leghari — who headed the panel in the last National Assembly — were among a number of diplomats, politicians and think tank representatives, who spoke at a round-table discussion at the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on ‘Palestine: Deal of the Century & Two State Solution’.

The discussion was held against the backdrop of the international conference in Manama, Bahrain, where the US unveiled the economic component of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ — a proposal for resolving long-running Palestine dispute.

The plan, which is yet to be fully rolled out, reportedly provides for creation of economic opportunities instead of resolving the core issues of the dispute — the final borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. Although the proposal has been rejected by Palestinians, some of the powerful Arab states including Saudi Arabia and the UAE are backing it. Pakistan may soon be required to take a position on the issue.

Mr Tiwana, who chaired the session, said Pakistan’s position on Palestine was clear and in accordance with international law and UN resolutions. He observed that the government did not have much space for deviating from its stated policy because of similarities between Kashmir and Palestine disputes.

It has been Pakistan’s consistence stance that Palestine and Kashmir disputes have the following commonalities — they are of concern to the Muslim world and involving Muslims; both concern foreign occupation and denial of self-determination to people; both are among oldest items on the UNSC agenda; and in both cases UNSC resolutions remain unimplemented due to big power politics.

PML-N leader Awais Leghari said: “Despite discernible shift in Arab countries… Pakistan must retain its independent stance and be cognizant of the impact of recognition of an occupier state’s legitimacy and disregard of international agreements for the suppressed people of Palestine. This would also inadvertently impact Pakistan’s position on Kashmir.”

Speaking on this occasion via video call, Pakistan’s envoy to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi said: “We are seeing shifting of US policy …. Pakistan does not agree with shifts in position and we continue to be part of the OIC in rejecting these shifts and calling for a just, and humane settlement of the Palestine issue in line with UNGA and UNSC resolutions.” She was referring to the US position on Golan Heights, and illegal settlements.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019

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