Pakistan Arrests Five Citizens for Travelling to Israel – Africa, Asia … – Haaretz

Islamabad forbids Pakistani nationals from visiting Israel, but five citizens were discovered to have worked as car washers and helpers in Tel Aviv for several years
Pakistan has arrested five citizens on charges of traveling to Israel, its Federal Investigation Agency announced on Wednesday.
The suspects were accused of entering Israel from Jordan “via Turkey, Kenya and Sri Lanka,” the law enforcement agency stated in a social media post, adding that they had spent four to seven years in the country.
According to the FIA, the men paid an Israeli between RS 300,000 ($1,050) and RS 400,000 ($1,413) to enter the country, and “worked as helpers and car washers in Tel Aviv,” sending remittances home via Western Union.
Pakistan does not recognize Israel and forbids its citizens from visiting the country.
Pakistani television network Aaj News reported that the men were brought to Israel by a man named Issac Matat. Someone of that name currently works as the CEO of a Bnei Brak-based carpet firm founded by Pakistani immigrants but Haaretz has seen no evidence linking him to the incident. An email to the firm was not immediately answered.
Israel and Pakistan have made overtures to each other in the past, most notably when the country’s foreign ministers met in Istanbul in 2005 following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Until that point, Islamabad and Jerusalem had for years maintained dialogue through several back-channels, including via Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and through their ambassadors at the UN, in New York and Geneva, although such talks were reportedly thin on content.
But then-President Pervez Musharraf’s tentative exploration of recognition based on a conclusion to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict faced an intense domestic backlash and there is still intense opposition to recognition of Israel.
Last year prominent journalist Ahmed Quraishi was fired after participating as part of a delegation of mostly Pakistani expatriates living in America that travelled to Israel, despite the fact that every Pakistani passport includes a warning in bold letters that it is valid for all countries except Israel.
However, entering Israel is still not simple for Pakistani nationals, with members of delegations having to obtain special permits to enter Israel on their Pakistani passports.
In April, Pakistan denied rumors of trade with Israel following a Jewish businessman’s tweet about successfully exporting food samples to Jerusalem and Haifa.
“There is no change in the policy,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told media in response to queries about bilateral trade.
Pakistan officially backs a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has a longstanding position of non-recognition of Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established within the pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Dr. Nassim Ashraf, a former Pakistani minister of state for human development, who visited Israel last year, has told Haaretz that he believed that if Jerusalem took “tangible steps” toward reaching a two-state solution with the Palestinians, that could easily pave the way toward the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel.
“I personally believe that it would clinch the deal, and all the hostility toward Israel in Pakistan would be cleared away,” said Ashraf, who served under Musharraf and currently resides in Washington, D.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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