Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - On October 15, 1937, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the political leader who would become the founding father of Pakistan a few years later, after the partition of India and Pakistan in 1945, said in a speech to the Assembly of the "All-India Muslim League" in Lucknow: "The Muslims of India will stand firm and help the Arabs in every possible way in their courageous and just struggle... I wish them, on behalf of the Muslim League, happiness, courage and determination for their just cause, and I am sure that they will win". This desire was also expressed in concrete support for the Palestinian people during the Palestine War (1947-1949). This support was expressed throughout the difficult Israeli-Palestinian relations and wars of the 20th century, with the Pakistan Air Force participating in and fighting against Israel in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. After the 1973 war, Pakistan and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed an agreement for the training and education of PLO officers in Pakistani military facilities. Pakistan and the PLO continued to develop close relations, and at a pan-Islamic summit in Lahore in February 1974, the PLO was declared the "sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians" for the first time. The result of the relations was full and mutual diplomatic recognition between Pakistan and the PLO in 1975. Years later, during the First Intifada, which began in 1987, pro-PLO demonstrations took place in Pakistan and the government provided the organization with extensive humanitarian aid. After the Palestinian Declaration of Independence on November 15, 1988, Pakistan recognized the Palestinian Authority on November 16, 1988 and established full diplomatic relations with it in 1989. Historically, Pakistan, the land of Indian Muslims, the second most populous Muslim country in the world (after Indonesia) with 95 percent Muslim citizens out of a population of over 230 million, remains a strong supporter of the creation of an independent Palestinian state and, in line with its pro-Palestinian doctrine, it has never recognized the State of Israel.
The renewed flare-up of the conflict in the Middle East and the subsequent reactions in Pakistan must be seen against this historical background. After October 7, incumbent Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar described his country as "troubled by the escalation of violence in the Middle East", which underlines the urgent need to address the Palestinian issue and calling for "restraint and protection of the civilian population". He reiterated that "a lasting peace in the Middle East consists of a two-state solution with a viable, contiguous and sovereign State of Palestine based on the pre-1967 borders". Following Israel's political and military response, Pakistan condemned Israel's violence against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, which was openly condemned by acting Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani. "The Palestinians' right to self-determination must be respected and Palestine should be given a separate and independent state that is accepted not only by Israel but also by the international community," he said.
The "total siege" of the Gaza Strip, which is blocking the supply of food, water, electricity and fuel to 2.3 million people, many of whom are in need of aid, has been particularly criticized in the country. The Israeli armed forces' air and artillery attacks on entire neighborhoods, hospitals and schools in Gaza are viewed as unjust "collective punishment" and described as "war crimes" against the entire Palestinian people, leading to a "humanitarian catastrophe". The nation appears to be united in this stance: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Pakistan's largest political-religious party, organized a massive anti-Israel and pro-Hamas demonstration in the city of Peshawar on October 14. A former Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, spoke at the event and called for "help from the Muslim Ummah" and thanked the JUI for its support. General Asim Munir, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, also reiterated that Islamabad would continue to support the Palestinians: "The Palestinian people enjoy the unequivocal diplomatic, moral and political support of the Pakistani nation, and we will continue to support the principled position of our brothers for a lasting resolution of the Palestinian state and an end to the illegal occupation of their territories and Muslim holy sites", General Munir said at a meeting of corps commanders at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi. According to the Pakistani government, Israel must abide by UN resolutions recognizing the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. Pakistan demands the recognition of Palestine as an independent state within the pre-1967 borders, he reiterated. The government in Islamabad remains in contact with UN agencies and international organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians and is in contact with the Egyptian authorities to use the Rafah border crossing. Pakistani President Arif Alvi called on the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to meet urgently to end the siege of the Gaza Strip: "The organizations should ensure that medical aid, food and other necessary supplies are urgently sent to prevent further devastation and human catastrophe in Palestine," he said, condemning "the atrocities being committed on a large scale." The conflict in the Middle East also has geopolitical consequences for Arab countries and Muslim nations like Pakistan: Pakistan's Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, who traveled to China in recent days for the third Silk Road Forum, expressed Pakistan's "deep appreciation for its strategic partnership with China". Kakar noted that China "is a valuable ally and Pakistan is proud of its friendship." He called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) "a historic milestone in the friendship between the two nations" and emphasized its potential to bring economic development and prosperity to Pakistan. Kakar also held bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the forum with senior Chinese figures (including Chinese President Xi Jinping) as well as other heads of state and government who attended the forum. Pakistan wants to “strengthen the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation” with China. In this context, memorandums of understanding were signed in various areas such as agriculture, health, education, training and energy. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/10/2023)