PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwalla on Sunday walked back his statement calling on Pakistan to focus on its "interests" with respect to Israel, saying he never supported the recognition of, or trade with, the Jewish state, insisting that his words were being "distorted".
The statement from the senator comes a day after he commented on the potential of Pakistan having diplomatic ties with Israel, saying the country should do what is in its own best interest.
In an exclusive interview with DawnNewsTV, Mandviwalla, whose party is a part of the government, had said: "We should not stop dialogue and trade with any country. People criticise Israel [but] we have to look after our own interests."
Pakistan does not recognise Israel and, therefore, doesn’t have diplomatic relations with it. The country has been a staunch supporter of a Palestinian state.
After the Abraham accords — a deal brokered by the US in 2020 which saw normalisation of relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain — Pakistan had made clear that it cannot recognise Israel until a "just settlement of the Palestinian issue" is found.
Referring to the Middle East nations, Mandviwala said they were negotiating with and trading with Israel, adding that Pakistan must also do what suits its own interest.
But today, in a conversation with Dawn.com, Mandviwala said his words regarding Israel were being distorted. "I never wanted Pakistan to further ties with Israel or indulge in trade with it."
He insisted that recognising Israel was not in Pakistan's interests.
The senator emphasised that his views on Israel were quite clear that Pakistan should not recognise it, saying: "I have made a similar statement in the parliament also."
He said Israel's atrocities against unarmed Palestinians were known to the world.
"The silence of the global community against Israel's oppression of Palestinians is worrying," Mandviwala added.
Last month, the revelation that a number of Pakistani expats recently travelled to Israel as part of a delegation sparked a controversy, inviting criticism from several quarters including former premier Imran Khan and his party. This prompted the PML-N-led government to clarify that it had not sponsored or backed the delegation's visit.
The issue was discussed at length in parliament, press conferences and public meetings where questions were raised on the government's role vis-a-vis the delegation's visit to Israel. In the upper house of parliament, Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed demanded that the nationality of those expatriates who travelled to Israel be cancelled and the NGO that facilitated their visit be banned.
He said the visit of Ahmed Qureshi, who was working for state-run Pakistan Television (PTV), as part of the delegation raised many questions and sought to know under which authority and on which travel documents he undertook the visit.
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had also told a presser that PTV had terminated the contract of the anchorperson who visited Israel "in his personal capacity".