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FO, commerce ministry deny having diplomatic or trade relations with Israel

Amid reports of an exchange of goods between Pakistan and Israel, the Foreign Office (FO) and Ministry of Trade and Commerce denied on Sunday having made any trade with the middle-eastern nation.

The American Jewish Congress (AJC) had claimed that a bilateral trade occurred with the offloading of the first shipment carrying Pakistani-originated food products in Israel.

Issuing a clarification over the purported trade, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch told that Pakistan does not have diplomatic or trade relations with Israel.

“There is no change in the policy,” she stressed.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce said that the AJC’s press release was wrongly attributed as it does not make any mention of Pakistan’s official trade relations with Israel.

“Rumours about beginning of Pakistan-Israel trade are pure propaganda. We neither have nor do we intend to start trade relations with Israel,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Sualeh Ahmad Faruqui had confirmed to The News that Pakistan did not send any export consignment to Israel, and any claims suggesting otherwise are merely disinformation for political purposes.

The customs officials at the Karachi Port also seconded the trade secretary’s statement.

On March 30, the American Jewish Congress released a statement on “trade between the State of Israel and Pakistan” claiming that the first shipment from the country had been received in Israel.

“This week, the first shipment of Pakistan-origin food products was offloaded in Israel, in a transaction that involved Pakistani-Jewish businessman Fishel Benkhald, based in Pakistan’s business hub of Karachi, and three Israeli businessmen from Jerusalem and Haifa,” the statement read.

It also stated that the alleged trade was widely reported by both Pakistani and international media.

The AJC had stated that the two nations didn’t have diplomatic ties yet but their entrepreneurs and technologists “have forged ahead in pursuit of common prosperity”.

“Thanks to this initiative [alleged first trade] eighteen years ago, constraints and licenses that restricted Israel-Pakistan trade were abolished,” it added.

Facts about ‘Pak-Israel trade’
Fishel BenKhald is a Pakistani citizen from Sindh with a Jewish background who is a strong proponent of trade ties between Israel and Pakistan. He is engaged in the business of the Kosher food industry.

On March 28, Fishel claimed to have exported the first consignment of dates, dry fruit and spices from Pakistan to Israel via the UAE. He congratulated himself on being the first Pakistani to be able to export Pakistani products to Israel.

The shipment was offloaded in Israel through a private transaction of the Pakistani-Jewish businessman and the deal was struck and shipment was booked in the United Arab Emirates, not from Pakistan. Moreover, the shipment was marked for the UAE and not Israel. Israel removed the restriction of import licenses for Pakistani products in 2005. So, there was no need for any special licenses or permits to conduct this trade.

Despite the fact the “trade” was not a direct trade on Pakistan’s behalf, the matter was unduly highlighted and treated as official trade.

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