By Syed Tahir Rashdi
As a nation founded on a Muslim identity Pakistan was bound to be deeply sympathetic to Islamic causes around the world. In particular Pakistanis have had a strong emotional attachment to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. As a result, and like many of their Arab and Muslim brethren Pakistanis view Israel as the enemy. Geopolitics, however, is anything but an emotional exercise; rather it is the art of skilfully pursuing the national interest.
For the past seven decades Pakistan has supported the Palestinians without Islamabad actually doing much for their occupied brethren. A lot has happened over the decades, however, Pakistan’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue remains frozen in time. Many Arab and Muslim states have assumed a pragmatic attitude towards the issue. Islamabad, however, has not realized that not only has it fallen behind the curve in terms of the ground realities in the Middle East, it is also not being mindful of the emerging realities in its own South Asian milieu.
“There were two places where Alexander The Great faced fierce resistance in the whole world. It was Palestine and (Multan fort in Pakistan), where he was actually injured by (Pakistani soldiers) and subsequently killed”, says famous British historian Michael Wood in his documentary “In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great” on BBC.
It is very important that present and future leaders of Pakistan must understand that Pakistan’s commitment to Palestine was a principled one and it predated Pakistan itself. It’s support for the just causes of the Muslim world is organically related to its own national vocation.
In October 1947, soon after emergence of Pakistan, MA Jinnah aka (Quaid-i-Azam) warned that the partition of Palestine would entail “the gravest danger and unprecedented conflict and that the entire Muslim world will revolt against such a decision which can not be supported historically, politically and morally”. Soon afterwards, Pakistan said at the United Nations that all the Holy Land was being nailed and stretched on the cross. All these words are still timely.
In 1950 (May-June) Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan visited the United States and American leaders of trade and industry met him. At the meeting they promised all possible military and economic assistance in case Pakistan recognized Israel. The American industrialists also underlined the importance of such a package for the new state of Pakistan. Liaquat Ali Khan in his known gentle tone replied, ‘Gentlemen! Our soul is not for sale.’
Zulifqar Ali Bhutto (1928- 1979), Prime Minister said in his keynote address to Second Summit Conference of the Islamic Heads of States held in Lahore, 18-22 February 1974, to serve as a reminder that, “Pakistan’s stand (on Palestine) was neither emotional nor ephemeral, it was based on sound principles in history, law and international legality. The stand can be betrayed. It can never be faulted”.
The Pakistan resolution passed in 1940 that inaugurated the glorious freedom struggle of the Muslims of the South Asian subcontinent under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (d.1948). It is a fact of no small significance that the same session of the, [All India] Muslim League which adopted the Pakistan resolution also adopted unanimously a resolution on Palestine.
The resolution recorded that, “the considered opinion, in clear and unequivocal language, that no arrangements of a piecemeal character should be made in Palestine which are contrary in spirit and opposed to the pledges given to the Muslim world’. The resolution further warned against the danger of using force in the Holy Land to overawe the Arabs … into submission”.
Pakistan’s support for the just causes of the Muslim world is organically related to its own national vocation. It has never suffered a severance between national impulse and the urges of the Muslim emancipation. When the partition of Palestine was decided, a demonstration was held here in Lahore at which [the great Islamic poet] Iqbal [d.1938] was present. On that occasion, he emphasized the problem of Palestine, and I quote his words, `does not concern Palestine alone but will have wide repercussions in the entire Muslim world’.
Before 1947 there was no Palestine problem; there was only a country named Palestine. Only the right arrogated to itself by western colonialism enabled one western nation to promise to a section of another people, namely Jews, the country of a third, the Arabs. It needs to be reiterated that it is this fundamental injustice, this uprooting of a people from their homeland and planting alien population on it that evokes the resentment of the entire Muslim world.
Syed Tahir Rashdi writes from Shahdadpur, Pakistan