ISLAMABAD: The director of immigrations at the Federal Investigations Agency said on Tuesday that Pakistan’s Immigration and Passports office had last week “mistakenly” listed ‘Israel’ among the countries whose citizens needed to go through special checks in order to visit Pakistan but that the error was being corrected.
The appearance of the list on the website was surprising because Pakistan does not recognize ‘the State of Israel’ and there are no diplomatic ties between the two countries. But on the FIA website, Israel is now listed as one of seven countries whose citizens would need to undergo special police registration if they visited Pakistan. The other countries are India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nigeria, Somalia and Palestine.
FIA’s director of immigrations Ismatullah Junejo told Arab News the list was drawn up three years ago and had been “mistakenly” uploaded to the website during the digitization of records. From January 1, he said, it has been removed from the main page.
However, the list was still visible on the FIA’s website on Tuesday evening.
“With regards to Israel, there can be no change in [Pakistan’s] policy, ever,” Junejo said.
The FIA webpage provides the following instructions to citizens from seven countries, including Israel: “Register yourself with the foreigners’ registration branch of District Police Office (Special Branch) in the city/district of stay and get a Residential Permit for the period of stay. Before departure, don’t forget to surrender the Residential Permit to the same authority and get a Travel Permit.”
In October, reports that an ‘Israeli’ plane had landed in Pakistan led to media uproar and a near-crisis for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new government.
Pakistani authorities rejected the reports as “fake”.
Pakistan has always been a staunch supporter of demands for a Palestinian state. But officials say Pakistan and ‘Israel’ have maintained covert contacts for decades.
According to an October 2009 US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, the head of Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, said he had contacted Israel officials to head off potential attacks on ‘Israeli’ targets in India.
The first public talks between Pakistan and ‘Israel’ were held in 2005 during the rule of military leader General Pervez Musharraf. They were described as a “huge breakthrough” by then ‘Israeli’ Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, but sparked fury in the Pakistani public.