Why Pakistan Must Shun Myanmar Or Recognize Israel

23/06/2015 8:33 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
RIZWAN TABASSUM via Getty Images
Pakistan activists from the Jamaat-e-Islami party carry flags as they march during a pro-Palestinian demonstration against Israel's military campaign in Gaza, in Karachi on August 17, 2014. Indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians for a long-term truce in Gaza resumed on August 17, 2014, with just over a day left before a temporary ceasefire is set to expire, a Palestinian official said. AFP PHOTO/Rizwan TABASSUM (Photo credit should read RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images)

The Rohingya Muslim situation offers Pakistan two distinct choices: It can either sever diplomatic ties with Myanmar over the "slow genocide," or recognize the Jewish State of Israel as extending to its pre-1967 borders. A failure to act now will confirm Pakistan's status as a money-stuffed mouthpiece of the Arab League.

The government's inability to print its own foreign policy is a recurrent theme in Pakistan. Though the majority party keeps denying it, everyone knows that America or Saudi Arabia are the ones dictating the core text. Public representatives including the Prime Minister can polish the product, but that too is subject to a clear line that cannot be crossed. If not for the Saudi leash, Pakistan's tone on Israel would be farcical. Here is a country over 2000 miles away with no guns pointing east, yet occupies the popular imagination like only India can.

So what makes the lay-Pakistani hate Israel? Part of the answer lies in government propaganda. Once the Gen.Zia-Ibn Saud relationship consolidated in the 1980s, the country's state-owned (and then only) television channel, PTV, plastered images of dead Palestinians on a daily basis. Indeed, other than the Indian army in Kashmir, there was no greater mass of screaming headlines. Concurrently, the Wahhabi strain seeped into Pakistan's seminaries and raised a new generation of clergy rinsed in anti-Semitism. The public had no chance to think otherwise, drowning as it was in both official and religious fatwas for hating the Jews.

"Though the majority party keeps denying it, everyone knows that America or Saudi Arabia are the ones dictating the core text."

Not much has changed in the twenty-first century, at least rhetorically. The number of television channels has increased, and with it, the individuals spewing hate. As for the government, Pakistan's Interior Minister Ch.Nisar recently slammed "certain" international NGO's for being agents of Israel and "working against the country." If there is definitive proof of Mossad's involvement in anti-state activities, then he hasn't shared it with the media, or better yet, the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, this blame-game reflects poorly on Pakistan's well-funded homeland security strategy, and makes you wonder where the money goes.

There is no reason, other than mutual paranoia, why Pakistan and Israel should have to face-off. For starters, both are ideological states that appeared out of thin air. Pakistan challenges the Jewish state's right to exist, but the same logic applies to its own geography. If embassies open, Israel can understand that Pakistan has comprehensive nuclear protocols that cannot be breached by rogue officials. Pakistan, similarly, will know that Israel selling arms to India is all business and not a global conspiracy against the Muslim "superpower." If the country's "all-weather friend" China can play ball with Israel, why should Pakistan sit aside and sulk?

Saudi Arabia, too, has now kneed Pakistan's high horse. The long-running rumors of its secret pact with Israel against Iran were confirmed in June, and apparently this hush-hush diplomacy is a year and five meetings old. If the House of Saud can hang with the "enemy," where does that leave Pakistan? Here lies the government's golden opportunity to display a foreign policy that is both consistent and nullifies all notions of its slavery to petrodollars. The precedent is simple: Myanmar's systematic persecution of Rohingya Muslims is analogous to Israel's misadventure in Palestine. Pakistan can no longer have it both ways and pretend not to be a pawn in someone else's game. It is time to put up or shut up.

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