Is Israel gaining influence in the region?
Narrated Muadh ibn Jabal that the Prophet ﷺ said: "The flourishing state of Jerusalem will be when Yathrib (Madinah) is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib (Madinah) will be when the great war comes, the outbreak of the great war will be at the conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) and the conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) when the Dajjal (Antichrist) comes forth." He (the Prophet) struck his thigh or his shoulder with his hand and said: "This is as true as you are here or as you are sitting (meaning Muadh ibn Jabal)". (Sunan Abi Daud)
The history of the Muslims and the Roman Christians is filled with events of war and peace, truce and fighting. The relationship between the Muslims and the Romans of today i.e. the Europeans is not as stable; rather it alternates between peace and war. The Prophet ﷺ related to us that one of the signs of Akhiruz Zamaan (End of times) is a major war between the Muslims and the Romans which will occur during Imam Mahdi's time. The Prophet ﷺ called it the great battle, in which the Muslims will be victorious, then they will go and conquer Constantinople (modern Istanbul), then the Dajjaal will appear. Many Islamic thinkers and scholars believe we are in that time now where "flourishing state of Jerusalem" is rapidly taking shape before our eyes, an indication of the influential role of Israel in the region and in the world. It was in 2018 Israel unilaterally declared Jerusalem, a disputed territory, to be its new capital and USA even moved their embassy to the city followed by some other countries. Despite Israel’s 70 years of illegal occupation of Palestine and Jerusalem many Arab states have gradually begun accepting its sovereignty thus making Israel even further stronger and influential.
The US brokered Abraham Accords, a joint peace declaration initially signed on September 15, 2020, officially normalized diplomatic relations between Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. In December 2020, Morocco followed suit and inked a normalization agreement with Israel, establishing full diplomatic relations. Then, in January 2021, Sudan signed also on to the accords, declaring its intention to advance normalization with Israel. But prior to these countries signing the accords it was in January 2020 Saudi Sheikh Mohammed al-Issa, a close associate of the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, along with several Muslim religious leaders joined the American Jewish Committee, the most influential Jewish lobby group in US, on a landmark interfaith tour of the former Nazi extermination camps of Auschwitz, Poland. This Saudi backed interfaith meeting was symbolic in forming a path for other Muslim countries to begin normalization with Israel. And so it became clear that these accords could not have been realized without Saudi blessings! Being custodian of the two holy Islamic sites, Saudi Arabia under control of the ambitious Crown Prince, cannot directly normalize ties with Israel till it succeeds in getting other Muslims states to do so.
How Pakistan is being pressured in to Israeli Recognition?
On 10th April, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted through passage of a no confidence vote in the parliament. After buying Khan's ruling party members through horse trading, the opposition was able to gain majority which was required to successfully oust him from premiership. The day the motion was passed Khan used his legal authority to dissolved the parliament. But quite strangely the Judiciary intervened and prevented him from doing so leading to successful passage of the motion resulting in his removal from the office. What came as a shock to the nation was the strange role of the judiciary and the silence of army leadership in the passage of this motion despite Khan's earlier claims that there was a US backed regime change conspiracy to oust him. The army has ruled almost half of the 70 years of Pakistan's existence and is known for its intervention in the remaining half when political parties have ruled. Hence, it was quite strange that despite their power and awareness of foreign conspiracy they acted completely neutral till the passage of the motion.
The conspiracy evidence claimed by Khan was a foreign diplomatic cable called cipher received by a Pakistani Ambassador in US who while presiding over a meeting was warned by US representative of South Asia Donald Lu that if the no confidence motion failed then Pakistan would face major difficulties at the global level but if it was successful then Pakistan can hope for good. After receiving the cipher Khan's government called a National Security meeting that included top civil military leaders, the army and intelligence chiefs. The cable was discussed and it was jointly agreed by all parties that this was blatant interference by a foreign power in Pakistan's internal affairs. Khan's government also sent the cipher to the Supreme court Chief Justice to conduct an investigation so the real culprits behind this whole process of regime change operation can be revealed. To this day no action has been taken by the court.
Despite all the evidence of a threat from US to remove Khan from premiership, the army and judiciary, the 2 most powerful institutions in the country did nothing to prevent. What's interesting to note is that after Khan's removal it was revealed that the cipher was not addressed to Khan's government, it was in fact addressed to the Army Chief, most powerful person in the country. Hence it became absolutely evident that the removal of Khan could not have happened without the tacit approval of this institution and the man who runs it.
After his removal from power Khan, a very popular leader compared to other politicians, openly claimed during rallies that he was removed as a result of US backed regime change operation with the tacit approval of the country's armed forces. Knowing military's past role every one agrees with Khan on this. But if one investigates further we find more pieces to the puzzle which brought together form a bigger picture of this entire scenario. Unfortunately, it seems that this Pakistani crises is not detached from the ongoing US-Saudi efforts since 2020 to normalize ties of several Gulf and Arab States with Israel.
It was in 2020 that rumors in Pakistani media began circulating that the country may also normalize ties with Israel. In Pakistan this is a very sensitive issue. To placate these fears, Khan, then Prime Minister, admitted in an interview that his government faced pressure from another country to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. But despite pressure he clarified that there was "no second thought to recognize Israel unless there is a just settlement, which satisfies Palestinians," adding that the stance is motivated by the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who was an adamant supporter of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. He refused to name the country or countries that have been pressuring him, saying: “There are things we cannot say. We have good relations with them.” When the interviewer again asked who is pressuring Pakistan, Khan said: “Let us stand on our own feet in terms of economy; then you may ask these questions.” Quite evident that his reference was towards Saudi & UAE loans and oil on credit procured by his government when it came to power to stabilize the balance of payment crises. Khan also said that the pressure was as a result of “Israel’s deep impact in the US,” in reference to Israeli lobby groups in US. Prominent Pakistani journalist Mubasher Lucman believed that Saudi Arabia was one of the countries pressuring Islamabad into recognizing Israel, he said in an interview with i24 News. Lucman said that Saudi Arabia has always looked at Pakistan as its "subordinate" country.
Sami Hamid, a Middle East analyst explains that Crown Prince Bin Salman, who runs Kingdom affairs on behalf of old and ailing King Salman, is abandoning all commitment to Palestine and disengaging Saudi Arabia from wider Arab and Muslim causes in general. All this is in pursuit of one goal: US approval of his bid to become king which seems bleak since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He claims that normalization of ties with Israel is also part of this bid because Bin Salman realizes that Israelis are the most influential people in Washington. Hence, this explains the pressure from friendly countries and the influence of Israelis in US that Khan made reference to during that interview. Additionally its also the multibillion dollar investment required to fulfill Prince's Saudi 2030 vision which has been significantly impacted by the international media's backlash after the journalist's murder, which needs to be put back on track whose accomplishment will help modernize the Kingdom and secure the Prince's future kingship.
In order to expedite the process of Pakistan's normalization with Israel, Khan was the major hurdle and had to be removed. The only person that Saudis believed can do the job was Army Chief General Bajwa. So it should not come as a surprise that the General was honored with the highest Saudi award, King Abdulaziz Medal by the Prince during his visit to kingdom just 2 months after Khan was removed from power. The Kingdom acknowledged that this was in appreciation of "his distinguished efforts in strengthening and developing Saudi-Pakistani relations."
Khan's friction with the Crown Prince
Pakistan's first diplomatic crises with Saudi Arabia happened when Imran Khan decided to attend the KL Summit on special invitation by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Muhammad. The topics of concern were Uighur detention, Yemen War, Islamophobia, the Kashmir & Palestine issue. Being a vocal opponent against Islamophobia, Khan also saw this as an opportunity to raise his voice also for Kashmir, whose autonomy was scrapped by the Modi's fascist BJP regime. This immediately resulted in Saudi backlash, Khan was prevented by the army from attending the summit and the Chief Bajwa had to visit Riyadh for damage control. This may also have been the first friction between army and Imran Khan.
Another difficulty that Pakistan faced during Khan's leadership was that Muhammad Bin Salman has been pushing for stronger economic ties with India under fascist Modi. Any political instability in South Asia such as a conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, is seen as a major hurdle by Saudis in strengthening those ties. This explained why Jeddah based OIC platform under Saudis ignored the plight of Kashmiri and avoid condemning India despite India scrapping of the autonomous status of Kashmir and detaining hundreds and thousands. On the insistence of Khan's government to Saudi Arabia and their persistent ignorance on Kashmir resulted in Khan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood threatening that if this attitude continued then they will be forced to call a session of all those Islamic countries that are ready to stand with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, “with or without” the Saudis. This resulted in another diplomatic friction and the army Chief Bajwa visited Riyadh once more for easing the row.
Hence, it was after these diplomatic setbacks between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that may have pushed for Khan's removal. It is also important to mention that along with Saudi anger it must have been Israeli anger towards Khan's government that pushed for US backed regime change because Khan was always a vocal supporter for Palestinians. When Gaza was attacked by Israeli war planes in May 2021, Khan took to social media and demanded an immediate action by the international community to protect the Palestinian rights. Since becoming Prime Minister, many times Khan reiterated his support for the Palestinians unlike his predecessors who only chose lip service for the Palestinian cause.
Is Pakistan heading towards normalization?
It is important to mention that during last days of Khan's government, Pakistan's naval forces along with Saudi Arabia and several others including Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen, conducted a joint exercise with Israel even though none of these nations have formally recognized it. Another major step towards normalization from Pakistani side happened soon after Khan's removal, a first ever visit to Israel by a Pakistani delegation that included Ahmed Quraishi, a state employee and a staunch supporter of the Pakistan's intelligence and military. These delegates were part of the Sharaka, an Israeli NGO that works closely with Bahrain & UAE to promote normalization between them.
As President Biden makes his first trip to Middle East he made it abundantly clear before leaving on his trip that pushing for normalization between Israel and Arab countries – particularly Saudi Arabia – would be a top priority. It was during Biden's touchdown in Israel that Saudi Arabia announced to open its airspace to all air carriers, including Israeli planes which was hailed as historic by US and Israel. While Biden was not able to add new countries to the normalization agreements of Abraham Accords but he did push for regional economic and security integration that would include Israel.
The picture is quite clear that US-Saudi-Israeli regime change in Pakistan is part of the bigger give and take that these countries would like to in order to achieve their domestic and regional goals. As Pakistan's military under Saudi influence moves the country towards normalization with Israel, former PM Khan is rallying the nation to remove the current regime who are now called "imported Government" because of their installation through a foreign regime change operation. Since his removal Khan's popularity graph continues to swell and he is demanding immediate elections across the country, which quite frankly most citizens also demand because they see him as a victim. His party just swept a by-elections in the country's most populous province of Punjab, which foretells that he will sweep if general elections happened in the country. Khan has threatened to do a long march towards the capital if his demand for elections are not met. As all this happens Khan's life may also be in danger.
It is wont be long before Saudi Arabia officially formalizes ties with Israel in which case Pakistan being a subordinate country will have to follow suit. Now it is only a matter of time. Time will tell if the army is able to prevent Khan from coming back to power or no. If Pakistan does formally normalizes ties with Israel then will Imran Khan be able to reverse it once he’s back in power? Time will tell if Pakistan under Imran Khan or any other government, permanently joins the club that will fulfill the prophecy of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about “the flourishing state of Jerusalem”.