Stories

Allowing citizens to travel a tacit recognition of Israel: FO Legal Section

 

Pak Citizen Portal shows issue of Jew citizen about visit resolved

 

By Waseem Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: While a Pakistani Jewish citizen claims he has been permitted to travel to Israel on the green passport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been warned by its legal counsel that such an approval will be a tacit recognition of Israel, The News has learnt.

According to sources privy to the matter, after an application was filed on October 28 by a Jewish Pakistani citizen Fishel Khalid on Pakistan Citizen Portal, introduced by the Prime Minister Imran Khan, a senior official of the Foreign Affairs Ministry wrote to legal department for opinion on the matter.

The query was whether to allow Mr Khalid to travel to Israel on Pakistani passport for religious pilgrimage?

The response of legal department was a clear ‘No’ with a warning that such an approval will mean a “tacit approval/recognition” of Israel. Pakistan currently does not recognize Israel and its passport clearly states that document is not valid for travel to Israel.

However despite this strong legal opinion, Mr Khalid claims he was called by two senior officials of the Foreign Ministry telling him that he can visit Israel.

Not only that, Khalid says he was encouraged to tweet about this approval by the official and even tag the spokesperson of Foreign Office Dr Faisal.

Following the call he tweeted on Wednesday: “Dear @ImranKhanPTI on Jan 2 Ministry of Foreign Affairs called to informing that I can visit Jerusalem, Israel on Pakistani passport. I’m applying visa from Israeli embassy. Thank u Dr Faisal,” his tweet reads. Official twitter handles of MoFA, its spokesperson Dr Faisal, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor and Bilawal Bhutto have been tagged in this tweet.

However when contacted by The News for his comments on Thursday, Dr Faisal directed this correspondent to his response to similar question during the weekly briefing. “On questions regarding Israel, our position on Israel remains unchanged.”

He refused to comment any further on the issue. A day earlier while responding to queries of The News correspondent Umar Cheema, Dr Faisal also claimed that he was unaware of the tweet by Mr Khalid.

However it has been learnt reliably that Khalid was contacted by officials from Dr Faisal’s office on Wednesday and he was told that he can visit Israel. He was also asked to tweet about the permission.  Khalid’s claims also gain weight from the fact that his original application on citizen portal is shown as “resolved” which means his request for permission has been accepted.  Khalid through Complaint No SD291018-0120215 had requested Pakistani government to allow him to “make religious pilgrimage visit to Jerusalem, Israel on Pakistani passport in April 2019. The status of complaint is shown as resolved.

However talking to The News, Fishel didn’t offer any comment when contacted to inquire about this. “I don’t want to ruin my efforts by indulging in any such controversy,” he said.

Foreign office sources told The News that Fishel had applied for the permission on Oct 28 through the Citizen portal app.

His request was forwarded to the Sindh chief secretary for background check as the applicant is Karachi-based. It was then forwarded to the PM Office and the permission was granted after approval from there.

Fishel told The News that he could apply for Palestinian visa for visit on their side of the territory. From there, he can enter Israel. Alternatively, he can directly apply for Israeli visa as there is no bar from that side; the only hurdle was Pakistani government which has already granted permission, though not in writing. Fishel says he has contacts in Israel willing to help him by all means.

Legal experts believe the issue regarding modification in passport does not come under the purview of Foreign Ministry, as under the Rules of Business it is the Ministry of Interior which is authorized to make decisions about passports.

Also, Interior Ministry is empowered to decide who will come to Pakistan and who can go out of Pakistan.

Khalid, 31, lives in Karachi and has been very open about his religious beliefs. Son of a Muslim father and Jewish mother, Fishel chose to become a Jew and got it registered with Nadra. His four brothers opted for Islam. There are around 700-800 Jews in Pakistan.

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