pakistan and palestine

Written by Mishayam Jan Ayub 8:38 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Pakistan, Published Content

Pakistan’s Diplomatic Tapestry: Unraveling the Threads of Foreign Policy in Support of Palestine

Mishayam Jan Ayub explores Pakistan’s enduring support for Palestine, tracing its diplomatic positions and public sentiments. She highlights Pakistan’s unwavering backing for Palestine in the country’s foreign policy, one rooted in historical and cultural ties as well as geopolitical considerations.
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Ms Mishayam Jan Ayub is currently a student of Peace and Conflict Studies at the National Defense University.

Pakistan and Palestine

The close relationship between Pakistan and Palestine goes beyond the geo-political spectrum through a shared commitment to justice, cultural similarities, and historical narratives. The strong alliances and bonds between the people of both nations traverse beyond the former’s creation in 1947, characterized by the Muslims of the subcontinent’s unwavering support for the Palestinian cause.

Stemming from historical roots, Pakistan’s foreign policy has been based on shared values, historical resonances, and an unwavering commitment to justice. The partnership is crafted by woven mantras of solidarity, conjoint struggles, and resolute dedication to the ideals of self-determination. 

Pakistan has incessantly assisted the Palestinian people through humanitarian aid and has recently offered the services of medics for working in Gaza’s overworked medical institutions, following an Israeli military attack on Gaza’s Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, where over 500 people—including children, patients, and paramedics—were killed.

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Palestine has always been sacred for Muslims as it houses the Al Quds Mosque which Allah has described in the Qur’an as being blessed. He said (interpretation of the meaning): “Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid Al-Haram (at Makkah) to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa (in Jerusalem), the neighborhood whereof We have blessed…” [al-Israa’ 17:1].

Sentiments and attitudes of the Muslims in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent shaped the minds of its leaders. Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan in a speech to the All-India Muslim League Assembly in Lucknow on 15th October 1937, declared: “The Muslims of India will stand firm and help the Arabs in every possible way in their courageous and just struggle… I wish them, on behalf of the Muslim League, happiness, courage, and determination for their just cause and I am sure that they will win.” 

Historical Context

Geopolitical upheaval with great magnitude unfolded in the years following WW2. The partition of British India in 1947 and the creation of Israel in 1948 was the result of those strong tremors felt across the globe. While the creation of Pakistan happened with the ideals of Muslim self-determination and religious freedom, a large exodus ensued after the creation of Israel. Following that, a large number of Palestinians were forced to flee their homeland by sheer brute force.

Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been inextricably linked to support for justice and assistance of marginalized countries. Consequently, since the beginning, Pakistan took a morally upright stand by opposing Israel’s recognition. Empathy towards Palestinians emanated from the understanding of the shared experience of mass migrations during the division of their respective countries.

Being a recently formed state and attending its first UN session, Pakistan had a critical chance to explain its foreign policy during the early UN discussion over the future of Palestine in 1947. The General Assembly established subcommittees to examine different proposals after the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) presented a partition plan that was not approved by all members. Foreign Minister Zafarullah Khan of Pakistan vehemently opposed the partition, claiming that the UN lacked legal authority for it.

FM Zafarullah Khan’s cognizance of the dichotomy about the deliberate establishment of a Jewish minority in Palestine against the wishes of the majority made grounds for the country’s firm stance against the division of Palestine. Later, its position was significantly influenced by the 1967 Six-Day War, which led to a more vocal and unambiguous position in favor of the cause. Israel quickly won the Six-Day War from a military perspective, which allowed it to occupy areas that were significant to the Arab countries.

Pakistan responded by denouncing the Israeli aggressive posture and expressed its strong solidarity with the Arab nations. The country’s representatives stood at the international fora, specifically on the floor of the UN Council General, and emphatically dilated upon the necessity for an equitable settlement to the Israel-Palestine dispute. Pakistan has continuously demanded the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories and the cessation of the genocide.

The nation also saw protests in favor of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) at the start of the First Intifada in 1987, which acted as a catalyst for prompting the government to provide humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people. In response to the Palestinian Declaration of Independence on 15th November 1988, Pakistan promptly acknowledged its sovereignty, and full diplomatic relations were formally established in 1989. In keeping with its pro-Palestine position, the refusal on the part of Pakistan to establish relations with Israel has been an unavoidable phenomenon.

Advocating for the Cause of Palestine Globally

Pakistan also played a major role in Israel’s exclusion from the 1955 Bandung Conference. V.K. Krishna Menon, a close confidant of Indian Prime Minister Nehru and later India’s Defense Minister, stated that while Burma, India, and Sri Lanka supported inviting Israel, Indonesia and Pakistan were against it.

The stance of the Pakistani government towards the Arab-Israeli conflict underwent a dramatic change with the founding of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), as it moved from traditional political support to active involvement. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan claimed that Pakistani pilots had flown Jordanian aircraft during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Pakistani sources claimed that these pilots successfully shot down an Israeli plane in addition to defending Syrian airspace.

The OIC acknowledged the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian nation in its just struggle” during its second summit meeting, which took place in Lahore in February 1974. To support Palestine, formal diplomatic support was strengthened through the opening of embassies and high-level visits including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s three visits to Pakistan.

Public Opinion

Stemming from shared religious, cultural, and historical roots, the public support for Palestine by the people of Pakistan has been strong and constant. Beyond politics, Muslims across the subcontinent have strong religious ties to Palestine due to Al Quds Al Sharif in Jerusalem. The fervent demonstrations and rallies that took place throughout Pakistan following the atrocities in the Gaza Strip serve as a striking example of the country’s broad and persistent support for Palestine.

Contemporary Landscape

Pakistan has affirmed the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and denounced Israeli atrocities in Gaza. The nation condemned the entire siege of Gaza, seeing it as war crimes and a form of collective punishment. The government of Pakistan demands that Israel respect UN resolutions, acknowledge Palestinian self-determination, and call for the creation of an independent Palestine within the borders that existed before 1967.

The Countries With No Diplomatic Ties to Israel
The Countries With No Diplomatic Ties to Israel” by Statista is licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0.

Fears concerning the future of Israel’s attempts to build relationships with Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world at large have been raised by the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Islamabad does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state and does not have diplomatic ties with it at this time. This position is consistent with the practice of many nations with a majority of Muslims, which is to withhold recognition until the state of Palestine is established. For this reason, Pakistanis are prohibited from traveling to Israel because their passports expressly state that they are “valid for all countries of the world except Israel.”

Debate on Normalizing Relations with Israel in Pakistan

The distorted conflict in the Middle East has hampered efforts to forge relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, which sparked a recent public debate in Pakistan regarding possible ties with Israel. Citing the country’s longstanding position on the issue, Senator Mushahid Hussain emphasised that the Gaza war has effectively put an end to the debate over the recognition of Israel in Pakistan.

The public’s strong pro-Palestinian sentiments, as noted by former Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi, make it unfavorable to explore normalization with Israel at this time. Establishing diplomatic ties with Israel is strongly opposed by right-wing parties and Islamic organizations in Pakistan.


Pakistan’s stance on the Palestine issue is motivated by historical affinities and principles, yet it also has inferences of national interest and geopolitical landscape. Its nuanced foreign policy reflects the complex approach to balancing these factors. Pakistan is expected to continuously support the Palestinian cause, but the specifics of that support may change in response to shifting domestic and international situations.

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