Although he stopped short of mentioning the names of these countries when asked repeatedly whether the pressors were Muslim or non-Muslim countries, many believe Imran Khan was referring to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Leave this (question). There are things we cannot say. We have a good relationship with them,” Khan told reporters. (Read: PM of Pakistan: We Are Pressing Friends to Recognize Israel)
The UAE and Bahrain have recently established diplomatic and economic ties with Israel. Several other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, are also considering options for normalizing relations.
“Let us stand on our own two feet in economic matters, then you can ask these questions,” Khan continued, referring to Islamabad’s long-standing economic dependence on oil-rich Gulf states.
Some local and international media think Khan is hinting at the United States (US), Pakistan’s longtime ally in the so-called war on terrorism. However, Islamabad rejected this assumption.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has clarified that PM Khan misquoted him because there was no such pressure on Islamabad to recognize the state of Israel. (Also read: Netanyahu and Mossad Bosses Reported to Visit Saudi Arabia to Meet the Crown Prince MBS)
Khan clearly articulates Pakistan’s position that unless a fair solution to the Palestinian problem — which is satisfactory for Palestinians — is found, Pakistan cannot recognize the state of Israel. Despite the clarification of the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, Khan’s remarks prompted analysts to suspect Saudi Arabia’s role behind the pressure.
Although Saudi Arabia has yet to recognize the state of Israel, it is widely believed that the UAE and Bahrain cannot cross the “red line” without Riyadh’s approval.
Mohammad Ali Siddiqi, a Karachi-based analyst who often writes about the Middle East, does not ignore the possibility that Riyadh is pressuring Islamabad to normalize relations with Tel Aviv.
“As for Saudi pressure, yes, it cannot be ruled out,” Siddiqi told Anadolu Agency, Tuesday (24/11/2020). He said if Pakistan recognized the Jewish state, praise would go to Riyadh.
“MBS can be very calculating,” he said, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS). “If someone believes what (Turkish President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, MBS threatened to expel all Pakistani workers in the kingdom if Imran Khan attended the Kuala Lumpur Summit last December.”
Pakistan refused to attend the Kuala Lumpur Summit at eleven o’clock reportedly due to pressure from Saudi Arabia, which saw the forum as an alternative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OKI).
According to Siddiqi, Pakistani officials, even former officials, however, will not confirm or deny any pressure on Pakistan to recognize the state of Israel.
Lieutenant General (retired) Talat Masood, an Islamabad-based security analyst, said Riyadh did not persuade Pakistan to recognize Israel.
“Arab countries are normalizing their relations with Israel under a narrow approach based purely on political and economic gain at the expense of value. They no longer care about the Palestinian cause, “he told Anadolu Agency.
“There may be little Saudi role in seducing Pakistan in this regard, but in general, I do not think there is any pressure,” said Masood, who served in the Pakistani army until 1990.
The former Pakistan ambassador to Saudi Arabia Shahid Amin has a similar opinion. “Why did Saudi Arabia do that … after clarification of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it has to be cleared up. Pakistan doesn’t fit this picture,” he said.
Amin, however, acknowledged that Abu Dhabi and Manama had normalized relations with Tel Aviv with Riyadh’s approval.
But, he said, it would be difficult for Riyadh to do so, given the internal and external problems it can face. “Saudi Arabia is the spearhead of the Muslim world, his admission would invite too many problems for himself,” he explained.
Echoing Amin’s gaze, Siddiqi said; “Saudi Arabia has a unique position in the Islamic brotherhood. Its kings refer to themselves as servants of two holy places (Makkah and Madinah). Therefore, it cannot surprise the Muslim world to take a decision that many Muslims can consider to be treason not just over the Palestinian struggle but also an Islamic goal. “
Masood said it was only a matter of time for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to follow in the footsteps of the UAE and Bahrain. However, he continued, Pakistan would not submit despite pressure.
“Imran Khan fully understands that Pakistanis will never accept any decision aimed at recognizing or normalizing relations with Israel. That is what he has clarified time and time again, “he said. Saudi Arabia also knows this very well.
Supporting his views, Siddiqi said; “Hasty admission could set off a wave of extremist reaction, which Imran Khan’s weak and beleaguered government is unable to do.”
Pakistan’s relations with the Gulf states have a strong economic foundation. Large amounts of remittances were sent by Pakistani expatriates in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE together accommodate more than three million Pakistanis.
Saudi Arabia, home to 1.9 million Pakistanis, tops the list of countries with the highest number of remittances sent to Pakistan — more than $ 4.5 billion per year — followed by the UAE with more than $ 3.47 billion. The data comes from Pakistan’s central bank.