KARACHI: God's People Fellowship of Pakistan, a Christian organization, urged the government of Pakistan on Thursday to recognise Israel so that 10 million Christians of the country could visit the Jewish state to perform their religious obligations.
Speaking at a news conference here, Ashraf P. Butt, general-secretary God's People Fellowship of Pakistan, said he was making the demand in the backdrop of President Perves Musharaf's statement issued in June 2003 that the Pakistani nation should discuss the "Israel issue" with an open mind.
He was flanked by Master Rafique Saeed, president, Yousuf Gill, vice-president, and Father Philips, moderator of the Christian organization.
Mr. Butt said he was making the demand yet again in view of the larger religious interests of the 10 million Christian people and the teachings of the Bible to enable them to visit the "holy land" of Israel on the Pakistani passport. He said the government of Pakistan should reciprocate the gesture of the deputy prime minister of Israel, Shamon Peres, who said his country wanted to establish diplomatic relations with Pakistan on the basis of equality. He said Christians were the biggest minority community of Pakistan, but none of the governments of the country had accepted the long-standing demand of the community nor had the demand been taken seriously.
He said the religious rights of the minorities in the constitution were insufficient, adding that stopping Christians from visiting the "holy land" of Israel was also contrary to the International Charter of Human Rights and an injustice to the Christian community since all holy places of Christians were in Israel. He alleged that since the creation of Pakistan the community had been deprived of its rights to fulfil religious obligations.
Mr. Butt urged that in accordance with the Medina Charter, the changing global scenario and in the interest of the 10 million Pakistani Christians, the government of Pakistan should recognise Israel and establish diplomatic and trade relations with that country.
The general-secretary of God's People Fellowship of Pakistan said Israel was a ground reality and a democratic country and it had been recognise by most of the countries. Elaborating, he said that out of 57 OIC countries, 32 had formal political and trade relations with Israel and out of 191 UN member states, 161 countries had diplomatic relations with Israel. He said that according to reports published in some newspapers, four Arab countries had agreed to open their diplomatic missions in Israel and 12 states were likely to follow suit.
Mr. Butt said Pakistan had diplomatic relations with India despite the fact the "we have fought three deadly wars with that country and negotiations are under way to open the Khokhrapar-Monabao route and resume the Karachi-Mumbai ferry service"