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Pakistan Reader
Pakistan's Position on the War in Gaza

  Dhriti Mukherjee

On 16 April, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, and his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, issued a joint call for a ceasefire in Gaza, citing the rising death toll of Palestinians. Dar stressed the need for an “immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” and called for the creation of a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders, which could perhaps be “good for Israel” too.
 
On 28 March, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) asked for a swift implementation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) ceasefire resolution “calling for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine,” as the “Israeli war on the people of Gaza continues unabated and the Palestinian people continue to face starvation and genocide.” It also asserted that the “international community must redouble its efforts for a just and durable solution to the Palestine question.”
 
On 27 March, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif highlighted “Pakistan’s firm support for the people of Palestine in their just struggle for their inseparable right to self-determination.”
 
On 2 February, Pakistan called for the complete implementation of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling of provisional measures to end Israel’s actions in Gaza. The FO spokesperson, Mumtaz Baloch, also urged the international community to reconsider the decision to suspend funding to the UN United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as it has a “crucial role in protecting and supporting the Palestinian people”
 
On 1 November 2023, Pakistan’s Senate unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and condemning Israel’s “crimes against humanity.” The Senate also expressed “full solidarity and support” for Palestinians.
 
A brief background: Pakistan on Israel and Palestine
The official recognition of the State of Palestine by Pakistan in 1988 marked a significant milestone in its support for the Palestinian cause. This diplomatic recognition underscored Pakistan’s longstanding commitment to the principles of statehood, self-determination, and the rights of refugees for the Palestinian people. Over the decades, Pakistan has consistently supported resolutions in international forums, particularly at the UN, that advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people. The pattern of Pakistan’s votes in favour of Palestinian resolutions reflects its consistent dedication to advancing the cause of Palestinian statehood and justice.
 
To date, Pakistan refuses to recognize Israel as a sovereign state, and will reportedly continue to maintain this position until the state of Palestine is officially established. It has also prevented its citizens from visiting the country, with the Pakistani passport saying “valid for all countries of the world except Israel.”
 
1. Israel as an aggressor
Since the 7 October Hamas attack, Pakistan has remained critical of Israel’s actions. While the criticism from the public has been explicit, the government and officials have taken a more measured and diplomatic approach.
 
Though the tone adopted by Pakistani officials has been measured for the most part, Pakistan has always been a strong critic of Israel and its actions in Palestine that have had negative humanitarian implications, even before the start of the Gaza war. It has maintained that Israel is an aggressive country, evidenced by the statement on 13 October 2023, where it condemned the “indiscriminate and disproportionate” use of force by Israel against civilians in Palestine. Similar responses have been issued by Pakistani officials and the FO following major Israeli aggression. On 12 December 2023, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, warned that “Israel’s goal is to erase not only a people but also the entire idea of Palestine.” On 15 February 2024, Pakistan endorsed a statement by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) following Israel’s operations in Rafah, saying that “Israel’s merciless onslaught against the 1.4 million displaced people in Rafah is a blatant defiance” of international law. An editorial in Dawn criticized Israel for “justifying its atrocities in the name of self-defence,” going so far as to justify the Hamas action as an “act of resistance against the occupying force.” An opinion in The Express Tribune claimed that the existence of a Jewish state and the non-existence of an Arab state is an “act of injustice” which has encouraged Israel to “embark on a plan to permanently deprive the beleaguered Palestinian community of their ancestral land.”
 
2. Emphasis on Two State Solution
Pakistan has historically advocated for a two-state solution as a way to end the conflict in the region, and this stance has not changed since the 7 October attacks. On 15 October 2023, the then caretaker Foreign Minister, Jalil Abbas Jilani, clarified that Pakistan would “continue pursuing the same policy as adopted in the past till Palestinians get their right to self-determination under the UN Security Council and the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) resolutions.” A similar sentiment was echoed by President Arif Alvi on 24 November, when he emphasized that Pakistan supports a peaceful and fair resolution of the Palestine issue based on the two-state solution. On 9 July 2014, after Israel started its ‘Protective Edge’ military campaign in Gaza, the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, said Pakistan was committed to helping Palestinians in their right to having an independent state. 
 
3. Condemnation of the West for supporting Israel
In most of the statements, officials call on the “international community” in general to work toward a two-state solution and put an end to Israeli aggression. Akram on 15 April expressed hope that the US “government and other friends of Israel will agree with us to take steps in order to hold the Israeli regime accountable.”
 
The public has outrightly condemned the US for its policy on Israel. On 14 January 2024, the Karachi chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Hafiz Naeem Ur Rehman, called on the US to stop supporting Israel and compensate Palestinians, as “resolutions will not solve this problem.” Political analyst Dr Shahid Rashid highlighted how Western countries, especially the US, were “adding fuel to [the] fire by sending more weapons to Israel instead of trying to de-escalate this dangerous situation.” The West has also been accused of having “double standards” when it comes to responding to aggression from Israel, compared to similar responses from countries such as Iran.
 
An opinion in Dawn claimed that the “firm support of the US may have also emboldened the Israeli leadership,” and that it is “high time for the Biden administration to revisit its unqualified support to Israel.” Another opinion highlighted how the Biden administration is “equally responsible for the ongoing massacre in the occupied territory,” and that the continued supply of lethal weapons to Israel has made it “America’s war too.” Multiple editorials also reflected that Pakistanis have been disappointed over the US’ decision to veto several UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire.
 
4. The ineffectiveness of the UN
Pakistan has blamed the UN and the UN Security Council (UNSC) for failing to ensure stability in Palestine. On 15 April, Pakistan's Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Munir Akram, advocated expanding the UNSC membership to 27 members and asked for an end to “arbitrary veto use” to prevent a paralysis of the council. Earlier on 14 April 2024, the FO criticized the UNSC for being “unable to fulfil its responsibilities of maintaining international peace and security.” On 9 December 2023, the FO expressed deep disappointment over the fact that the UNSC “has once again failed to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, even in the face of a human tragedy of epic proportions taking place there.” It accused the council of failing to “perform its primary responsibility,” and asked it to act and “end this inhuman war and protect the people of Gaza from an impending genocide.” Pakistan’s criticism of the UN is not recent; in November 2015, Pakistan’s then Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, criticized the UNSC for being unable to resolve the Palestinian issue and end Israel’s atrocities in the region. An editorial in The Express Tribune highlighted the “incapacity of the Security Council to address flashpoints’ needs in the human context.”
 
5. Iran’s drone strike as a fitting response
Following Iran’s retaliatory strike, the FO described the developments as a “breakdown of diplomacy,” and emphasized the need to “stabilize the nation” in order to “prevent expansion of hostilities.” However, the larger sentiment observed in Pakistan has been pro-Iran, with many describing Iran’s drone strike as a fitting retaliatory response to Israel’s attack. On 14 April, scores of people gathered in front of the Karachi Press Club as part of a protest organized by the Palestine Foundation Pakistan (PLF), which welcomed Iran’s attack on Israel. Speakers at the protest commended Iran for their “courageous action” and “successful countermeasures against the murderous usurper Zionist state of Israel.” This pro-Iranian stance has been assumed by Pakistanis despite tensions between the two countries in January 2024.
 
Though the larger concern of an escalation of tensions and regional spillover of the war is the main message being conveyed by the government, an analysis in Dawn described Iran’s response as a “calibrated operation designed to send a strong message against any aggression by the Zionist state.” It also claimed that Iran’s response had been triggered by “Israel’s act of war,” indicating that Pakistan views that attack as a fitting response and not an Iranian act of aggression.

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