Monday, May 20, 2019
Trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka has come to a screeching halt. The reason behind the stoppage is said to be the rising violence against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka in the wake of recent terrorism and suicide attacks over there, which resulted in heavy casualties.
“Rice and textile exports to Sri Lanka from Pakistan have stopped. Potato export has also reduced drastically,” said Pakistan-Sri Lanka Business Forum Chairman Aslam Pakhali.
“It is the Muslim community in Sri Lanka that imports Pakistani products and sells them there. They are partners of Pakistani exporters,” said Pakhali, adding that the properties of Muslims were damaged during the recent wave of violence over there. “Their shops, super stores and godowns are being targeted. The goods exported from Pakistan have been unloaded at the Sri Lankan port, but the importers are not getting them cleared because of the deteriorating law and order situation there,” he added.
“The goods, especially fruits and vegetables, in godowns are perishing.
Sri Lanka is a major importer of Pakistani rice and textile products, but the exports have come to a halt,” he added.
Pakhali said a delegation of the forum held a meeting with the Sri Lankan ambassador in Pakistan and emphasised that the Muslim community over there be protected.The delegation condemned the terrorist activities in Sri Lanka and condoled the loss of precious lives over there.They demanded of the Sri Lankan government to compensate for the losses inflicted upon the Muslim community and provide them with protection. Pakhali said, “The loss to the Muslim community by now is estimated at $500 million and payments to the Pakistani exporters amounting of $30 million have been withheld.”He said the exports would not resume till the law and order situation in Sri Lanka improved. “Pakistan will face difficulties in achieving the export target in the final months of this fiscal year,” he added.
A Sri Lankan businessman Zainul Abideen told The Express through WhatsApp that the Muslim community in Sri Lanka was facing a ton of problems and was under siege.
“The law enforcement agencies are searching properties of Muslims. They are being attacked by mobs,” said Abideen. “Most of the losses to Muslims occurred in Negombo, Kurunegala and Puttalam districts. Violent mobs are attacking Muslims in the presence of security personnel.”
He said mobs were attacking Muslim neighbourhoods while the authorities were silent. “The national media of Sri Lanka is keeping its citizens in the dark about such injustice,” he added.
Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Maryam Nawaz has thanked Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari for his gestures of respect and hospitality at the Iftar dinner he hosted for opposition leaders of major parties at Zardari House in Islamabad on Sunday.
Maryam took to Twitter and expressed her gratitude to the son of the late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, calling him a “gracious host”.
“Thank you very much @BBhuttoZardari for the lovely iftar, especially for getting up mid-meal & fetching me tea. You are indeed a gracious host. I hope this meeting will culminate into us becoming voice of the masses of Pakistan who have been crushed by inflation & incompetence,” tweeted the PML-N vice president.
Sharing his pleasure, the PPP chairman also took to his Twitter handle to thank the leaders of the opposition parties for attending the Iftar dinner.
In his tweet, Bilawal urged the parties to shun the differences and focus on “what we can agree to get done”.
It was a grand show as leaders of all the opposition parties gathered at Bilawal’s Iftar dinner. The participants discussed strategies to run a political campaign against the government of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The opposition parties termed the country’s situation precarious, adding that the incompetent rulers are weakening the country and they have gathered as it was a national obligation to take care of the country.
Turyal Azam Khan
It is interesting to note that one of Pakistan’s major allies Saudi Arabia have mutual interests as well when it comes to dealing with Iran, a rival state of both countries. Hence it is important to remember that Israel is a key player in the Middle East region and despite Islamabad’s position on the opposing side, it is important to recognize Israel considering its status in the Middle East.
This view was even stressed by the former Pakistani President General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf. He expressed these views in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. In the interview, he admired the military capability of the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and also said that while he wants a solution to the Palestinian question, he has to admit that Israel was here to say and that is why it was essential to recognize Israel.
During the recent India-Pakistan tensions which took place after February 14 when an Indian convoy was attacked in the Indian administered-Kashmir area of Pulwama of which New Delhi blames Islamabad for the attack, Musharraf made similar remarks about establishing good ties with Israel. He expressed these statements in a press conference. In 2005, when the former Pakistani president wanted to make contacts with the Israeli leadership with the assistance of Turkey, the Israeli government responded within 24 hours. The late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto also wanted to establish good ties with Israel as per the Israeli media.
The Israeli and Pakistani military worked together during Operation Cyclone at the height of the Cold War. The Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) closely worked with Mossad against the Soviet Union. Both Tel Aviv and Islamabad sided with Washington during the Cold War whereas Islamabad’s arch-rival India sided with the Soviet Union. If it were not for the close co-operation between the ISI and Mossad, the Soviet Union would not have been perhaps defeated. Pakistan and Israel are among the most powerful militaries in the world and their co-operation is essential if a time of crisis comes as witnessed during the cold war.
While anti-Israel sentiment does exist in the country, Israelis who have visited the country speak nothing but of praise of the hospitality they have witnessed in Pakistan. The most prominent Israeli figure to have lived in Pakistan is Dan Kieselman, a sports physiotherapist and an osteopath who has worked with the Pakistan national cricket team. Despite a few objections, Kieselman described Lahore as a beautiful city and has claimed to never have hidden his Israeli identity while living with his wife there. He served as the sports physiotherapist for the Pakistani national cricket team from 1995 till 1999. Similarly, an Israeli-Arab lecturer Ramzi Sulaiman took part in a scientific conference organized by the University of Punjab in Lahore in 2015.
When British journalist Saima Mohsin who is of Pakistani origin was in Israel in 2014 covering the Israel-Gaza conflict, she shared something unusual happening in an Israeli restaurant. A song of the popular late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was being played at the restaurant and. The staff had no idea and they were overjoyed upon hearing it.
Sporting ties between the nations have been remarkable as witnessed at the 2002 Wimbledon Open when Pakistani tennis player Aisam Ul Haq Qureshi teamed up with Israeli tennis player Amir Hadad. Despite condemnation from the Pakistan Sports Board, Qureshi responded which most Pakistanis and Israelis can learn a thing or two from “I would like to be talked about for my tennis rather than politics. If we can change people’s minds, then that would be a good thing.”
When the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited India, he stated in an interview regarding Tel Aviv’s relations with Pakistan “We (Israel) are not enemies of Pakistan and Pakistan should not be our enemy either.”
The above statement makes the Israeli position on Pakistan quite clear now it is up to the Pakistani leadership in a similar manner. Despite tense relations with India, Pakistan and India still recognize each other and while Islamabad and Tel Aviv have not been involved in any direct conflict and have even co-operated militarily, Islamabad chooses not to recognize Tel Aviv.
It is essential for Pakistan to recognize Israel and start a new chapter. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan whose slogan is Naya Pakistan meaning he wants to make a New Pakistan should start by establishing ties with Israel. Pakistan’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict is quite clear however this does not mean that Israel is going anytime soon and in order to maintain a good presence in today’s global village, it is important for Tel Aviv and Islamabad to recognize each other. Who knows that the diplomatic ties between the two countries lead to something better that could not have been achieved if they did not recognize each other.