Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Monday that an anchor of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), who was part of a delegation of Pakistani-Americans visiting Israel earlier this month, has been terminated.
"The PTV anchor has been terminated and taken off air. He went on the tour in a personal capacity," she was quoted as saying by Pakistan Television.
Aurangzeb was also quoted as saying that there was no change in Pakistan's policy with regards to Israel. "Pakistan's policy on Palestine is clear and based on the statements of our founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah," she said.
She went on to say that a policy which was in contradiction with the people's wishes and aspirations could not be implemented. The minister said that Pakistan was committed to its traditional and principled position on the Palestinian issue and Israel.
The Foreign Office (FO) has already made it clear that no delegation from the country visited Israel, she stated, adding that Pakistan supported the Palestinians' right to a referendum in accordance with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.
She said that the world saw the two-state solution as a guarantee for lasting peace in the region. The minister said that the promise of a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital should be fulfilled.
"Occupied Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir are the longest-running issues on the UNSC agenda," she said, adding that it was the international community's responsibility to resolve the issues.
Lasting peace in the world will remain a dream until both of these issues are resolved, she said. "We will continue to do our utmost to support the just struggle of the people of occupied Palestine and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu Kashmir," she added.
She said that those taking "negative steps for cheap political publicity" should at least keep national interest in mind.
Although the minister did not name the anchor that had been fired, journalist Ahmed Quraishi was a part of a delegation that recently visited Israel. Quraishi also works for the state broadcaster.
Govt told to clarify its position
The issue also came under discussion during today's Senate session. Jamaat-i-Islami's Senator Mushtaq Ahmad said that reports had emerged of a Pakistani delegation visiting Israel, adding that the nation was concerned about this. He called on the government to clarify its position on the issue, as well as for the identification of those citizens who went on the trip.
"One of them is associated with PTV and has worked on major projects of the Pakistan Army," he said, adding that a ban should be placed on the NGO that organised the visit. The citizenship of those who went to Israel should be revoked, he said.
Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar maintained that there had been no change in Pakistan's policy regarding Israel. Pakistan does not recognise Israel as a state and no official visit took place, he said, adding that it was a serious matter.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Dr Shahzad Waseem questioned how the government was unaware of citizens travelling to Israel. "Their (the government's) emphasis is on pleasing Israel and the United States," he said, adding that the government was taking the matter "very lightly".
Pakistan's position on Palestinian issue clear: FO
On Sunday, the FO had "categorically rejected" the notion of any delegation from Pakistan visiting Israel.
The statement was in response to Israel President Isaac Herzog saying he received a delegation of Pakistani-Americans, calling it an "amazing experience" and referring to it as an example that showed him "great change" vis-a-vis Israel's ties with the Muslim world.
Pakistan does not recognise Israel and, therefore, doesn’t have diplomatic relations with it. Pakistan has been a staunch supporter of demands for a Palestinian state. After the Abraham accords, Pakistan had made clear that it cannot recognise Israel until a "just settlement of the Palestinian issue" is found.
The FO said the visit in question was arranged by a foreign NGO and Pakistan’s position on the Palestinian issue was "clear and unambiguous". "There is no change whatsoever in our policy on which there is complete national consensus," the FO statement added.
"Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination. The establishment of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian State with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions, is imperative for just and lasting peace in the region," the FO said.
Herzog had delivered the remarks during a special address at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting on May 26 in Davos, Switzerland, while talking about the Abraham Accords — a deal brokered by the United States in 2020 which saw normalisation of relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.
"The Abraham Accords are giving a lot of yield. How would you see this for enlarging the scope of cooperation?" asked WEF President Børge Brende.
"I'll tell you, you know, we are seeing it in all levels of life. Not speaking about just mere visits. We are seeing interest on all economic, scientific, innovation levels but I will tell you more about the personal feelings," the president replied.
Herzog said that he had received two delegations last week which showed "the great change".
"One was a delegation of young opinion-makers from Morocco who have aligned on Facebook with an Israeli [group]. They both came and sat with us for an hour and it was just amazing to listen to the experience of breaking barriers and moving forward and intertwining with each other," he said.
The next day, Herzog said, he received a delegation of Pakistani expats who lived in the US "together with other members of other countries in their region".
"And I must say this was an amazing experience. We haven't had a group of Pakistani leaders in Israel in such scope. And that all stems from the Abraham Accords, meaning Jews and Muslims can dwell together in the region [...]."