ISLAMABAD: Politicians and activists from Kashmir have expressed concern this week over an ongoing debate in Pakistan about the possibility of recognizing Israel, saying any such move would be detrimental to Pakistan’s claim over Kashmir and the Kashmiris struggle for self-determination.
Pakistan does not currently recognize the state of Israel over its thwarting of Palestinians’ aspirations for a state of their own. Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future free state.
Pakistan also claims a part of the Himalayan Kashmir valley ruled by neighboring India.
Recent media reports about international pressure on Pakistan to recognize Israel have also brought Kashmir into focus, with analysts pointing out that recognizing Israel would automatically mean Pakistan losing its claim on Kashmir.
The foreign office has said it continues to advocate for an independent Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
“Kashmiris are seriously concerned about this unnecessary debate in Pakistan related to Israel,” former prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Sardar Ateeq Ahmed Khan, told Arab News. “We have sacrificed about 600,000 lives for our cause. Instead of talking about that, a debate has been generated that can hurt our movement.”
The idea of normalizing relations with Israel was like “abandoning” the people of Kashmir, Khan said.
AJK Information Minister Mushtaq Minhas said the issues of Kashmir and Palestine were not only identical but interconnected.
“If one issue weakens at a global forum, the precedent will also apply to the other,” he said. “This should give you an idea of how the ongoing debate on Israel is harmful to our cause.”
Another former AJK prime minister, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, said Kashmiris “could not even imagine” that Pakistan would recognize Israel since the Jewish state was not only “occupying” Palestine but also supporting India in its effort to crush the Kashmir struggle.
“We do not support this debate by some segments of Pakistani society since we should all be united when it comes to Kashmir and Palestine,” Mahmood said, adding: “We have been fighting for the right to self-determination for the last 73 years. We are very clear that India is an occupier in Kashmir and Israel is subjugating the people of Palestine.”
Last year, India stripped the special autonomy of the part of Kashmir it rules, unleashing anger in Pakistan and other Muslim nations.
Mishal Hussein Malik, the wife of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, said the idea of recognizing Israel was like legitimizing the power of an aggressor. Malik heads the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front which pushes for a peaceful campaign for Kashmiri independence.
“India is following the Israeli model by changing the demography of occupied Kashmir,” she said. “People of Kashmir are concerned about such developments since they can have global impact.”
Shaikh Mateen, spokesperson for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of political and religious groups fighting for Kashmir’s secession from India, said Kashmir and Palestine were almost identical since the two disputes had been pending for decades and were not being resolved as per the wishes of their people.
Mateen, who came to Pakistan from Srinagar in 1994 and could not go back since he “feared for his life,” said: “Pakistan has always maintained that India and Israel are tyrants ... and it should remain steadfast. It hurts Kashmiris when people in Pakistan talk about recognizing the state of Israel.”