Saudi has pushed Pakistan to establish a diplomatic relationship with Israel
Bin Salman is more interested in incentivising the army, since it's the army that decides things in Pakistan. He won't be too concerned about who leads the democratic front in Pakistan.02 Juli 2021 12:59
A Pakistan-based writer and journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid. (Kunwar for Albalad.co)
Pakistan and Saudi Arabis has reset their relations after a steady deterioration accross the past year because of the issue of Kashmir. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan visit in May, based on an invitation by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammad bin Salman, signaled both countries relations have improved.
But there is no a free lunch in politics. According to a Pakistan-based writer and journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, Saudi has pressured Pakistan to formalise its relations with Israel. He is also an analyst for Haaretz newspaper.
"Yes, most of Pakistan's push towards Israel is being propelled by Saudi Arabia," said Shahid in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co via Twitter yesterday. He added economic incentives such as loans and energy supplies on deferred payments were used by Saudi to push Pakistan.
How about the truth about the news of a Pakistan official visited Israel last year?
Yes, multiple sources in Pakistan have confirmed that at least one Pakistani official visited Tel Aviv in November last year. Israeli officials have also confirmed this to the newspaper Israel Hayom.
Who is he and whom he met in Israel?
It is the Prime Minister's advisor on overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari and he met Mossad chief Yossi Cohen among other officials.
How significant was the visit for the improvement of Pakistan-Israel relations?
Unofficial visits have been going on for decades. But now Pakistani establishment is actively pushing for formalising ties with Israel. The visit signifies that Pakistan is step closer towards establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
Is there any follow up of that visit? Like a reciprocal visit from Israeli official?
There have been rumours of Israeli jets and officials landing in Pakistan. But there is nothing concrete yet. Historically Pakistani and Israeli meetings have always taken place in a third country. Today, UAE is a convenient meeting point since it formalised ties with Israel last year.
Is there any Saudi intervention or pressure against Pakistan to establish a diplomatic relations with Israel like they did toward UAE?
Yes, most of Pakistan's push towards Israel is being propelled by Saudi Arabia.
By economic means? And how effective is that blackmail to push Pakistan?
Yes, economic incentives such as loans and energy supplies on deferred payments were used to pressurise Pakistan. Saudi Arabia incentivises Pakistan Army as well through payments for its services and other military benefits -- and it's the army that calls all the shots in Pakistan.
Do you think Prime Minister Imran Khan will sacrifice his position for establishing a formal relations with Israel?
He might not have to sacrifice his position if the army promises to engineer the 2023 election for him.
Did he already get a guarantee from the military?
It is hard to say. Opposition parties are also queuing up to get back into the military's good books.
How about an assurance from Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to save Imran Khan's position?
MBS (Muhammad bin Salman) is more interested in incentivising the army, since it's the army that decides things in Pakistan. The Saudi crown prince won't be too concerned about who leads the democratic front in Pakistan.
If both parties in Pakistan - Imran Khan and opposition - rely on the army, do u think the military will conduct everything necessary without any objection from them to face mass demonstrations once a diplomatic relations with Israel established?
Yes, the only thing the military needs is the prime minister to sell it domestically and internationally. The military will deal with the demonstrations by incentivising the Islamist parties, which are largely under the army's influence anyway.
If you said Pakistan is more closer to Israel, will both countries conclude agreement this year or early next year?
It is impossible to give an exact time. But it is likely to happen within the next 24 months.
Do you think the US endorsement will play a critical role to make it happen?
The US influence is decreasing, especially given that Pakistan wants to prop up the Taliban in Afghanistan. But of course any additional incentive that might come from the US would facilitate the move further.
Do you agree the main motivation of the military to establish a formal relations with Israel is to make Pakistan keep a level with India?
That is one major motivation, but there are many others. The continuation of financial benefits from Saudi, UAE and US is a huge incentive.
How important is Pakistan for Israel?
Pakistan has been an intelligence and military ally of Israel for over four decades now, which was almost entirely due to both countries being US allies. But the major incentive for Israel in this deal lies in moving towards acceptance from the Muslim world, which has been a seven-decade old desire for Israel. Pakistan formalising relations, would be a major step towards achieving that and continuing the benefits that Israel has reaped in the aftermath of the Abraham Accords.