former aide of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made a secret visit to Israel

former aide of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made a secret visit to Israel

A former aide of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan made a secret visit to Israel last November for meetings with foreign ministry officials and therefore the then Mossad chief, consistent with an Israeli media report on Monday.

Sayed Zulfi Bukhari, a British Pakistani businessman who served as Khan’s special assistant on overseas Pakistanis till May this year, conveyed a message from the Pakistani premier to Israeli foreign ministry officials and another message from Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa to then Israeli spy chief Yossi Cohen, Israel Hayom newspaper reported.

The report said Bukhari, who lives within the UK, received Ben Gurion airport from Islamabad on a flight to London within the last week of November, taking advantage of his British passport. He travelled to Tel Aviv for the meetings and therefore the Pakistan-Israel contacts were the result of “heavy pressure from the UAE”, the report added.

Bukhari denied the report during a tweet. “DID NOT attend Israel. Funny bit is Pakistani paper says I visited Israel supported ‘Israeli news source’ & Israeli paper says I visited Israel supported a ‘Pakistani source’ – wonder who this imaginative Pakistani source is,” he tweeted, pertaining to reports within the Pakistani and Israeli media about the matter.

“Apparently, I’m the sole one who was kept out of the loop,” Bukhari added.

In December 2020, Israel Hayom had reported a few secret visit to Israel by a “senior adviser to the leader of an outsized Muslim-majority country” despite the 2 countries having no diplomatic relations. At the time, the newspaper didn’t name the Muslim country involved.

On Monday, Israel Hayom identified the country as Pakistan after getting clearance from the Israeli military censor. Monday’s reported cited a source in Islamabad.

The visit to Tel Aviv by the Pakistani official came against the backdrop of key Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalising relations with Israel and a debate within Pakistan’s political and diplomatic circles about re-evaluating the country’s position on Israel. However, Khan had said in an interview in August last year that Pakistan “cannot ever accept Israel as long as Palestinians aren't given their rights and there's no just settlement”.

Khan had appointed Bukhari as his special assistant on overseas Pakistanis and human resource development a month after assuming office in September 2018. Bukhari, who had the status of a minister of state, resigned from the post on May 17 this year following allegations that he had illegally benefited from changes made to the Rawalpindi bypass project.

Bukhari had denied allegations that he had received financial benefits because his land was located near the project.

Israel Hayom’s report would suggest this was the primary formal contact between Pakistan and Israel since the age of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. At Musharraf’s initiative and with backing from Pakistan’s ally Turkey, then Pakistani secretary of state Khurshid Kasuri met his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom within the Turkish city of Istanbul on September 1, 2005.

People conversant in developments said on condition of anonymity that the Pakistan-Israel contacts in 2005 had not led to any substantial engagement and had subsequently fizzled out.

In a statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry in 2005, Shalom had described his meeting with Kasuri as “historic” and said Israeli hoped it might “herald the start of an open and interdependent relationship” between the 2 countries. Shalom also thanked Musharraf “for his courage in promoting peace and moderation in our region”.

There was no official word from the Pakistan government on the difficulty .

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