Palestine on Saturday recalled its envoy to Pakistan for sharing the stage with 26/11 terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, with President Mahmoud Abbas directly intervening to order the recall after India strongly protested the envoy’s action as “unacceptable”.
“Palestine is keen to maintain good relations with friendly India and supports it for the efforts in its fight against terrorism,” the Palestine Foreign Office spokesperson said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Palestine in a statement however clarified that the “participation of our envoy in a mass solidarity rally with Jerusalem, held in Rawalpindi on Friday, and in the presence of individuals accused of supporting terrorism is an unintended mistake, but not justified.
“Accordingly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates under the direct instructions of the President of the State of Palestine to recall the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan immediately,” it said.
On Friday, Ali, stood with Hafiz Saeed at a rally called to condemn the US recognising Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, as Israel’s capital. The rally was called by Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a coalition of more than 40 Islamist parties. Saeed is also a key leader of this coalition.
After photographs of the event went viral on the social media, India took up the issue strongly with the Palestinian authorities, who expressed “deep regret” over the incident.
“Government of India has strongly conveyed to the Palestinian side that the Palestinian Ambassador in Pakistan’s association with terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who is proscribed by the UN, is unacceptable,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
“The concerns were conveyed both in New Delhi to the Palestinian Ambassador and in Ramallah to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates,” it said.
“The Palestinian side has conveyed deep regrets over the incident and assured the Government of India that they are taking serious cognizance of their Ambassador’s presence at this event. They have said they will deal with this matter appropriately.”
Palestinian Ambassador to India Adnan Abu Al Haij said: “We are supporting India in its fight against terrorism and because of that my government decided to directly call our ambassador to go back home, not to be Palestine ambassador to Pakistan anymore.”
The action of the Palestinian envoy in Pakistan came days after India voted with the rest of the world in favour of an Arab resolution in the UN General Assembly rejecting US President Donald Trump’s decision recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
According to the External Affairs Ministry statement, Palestine has also conveyed that it “highly values its relationship with India and stands with us in the war against terrorism, and will not engage with those who commit acts of terror against India”.
“We take note of the assurances given by the Palestine side,” the statement added.
In a feeble response, Pakistan late on Saturday said that Friday’s meeting “was yet another demonstration of the Pakistani strong sentiments in support of the Palestinian cause”.
“This public rally was attended by thousands of people from all walks of life,” Pakistan Today quoted the Foreign Office as saying in an official statement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Palestine also expressed appreciation for the “honourable position that India has taken by voting in favor of the resolution in the United Nation General Assembly last week”.
The India-Palestine Solidarity Front (IPSF) in New Delhi strongly condemned the Palestinian envoy’s dais sharing with Saeed and later appreciated the prompt action by President Mahmoud Abbas to recall Ali.
“We appreciate the prompt action by President Mahmoud Abbas, the Government of Palestine, to recall (Ali) for having attended a meeting convened by LeT Chief Hafeez Saeed, an internationally reviled and known hardcore terrorist,” said IPSF.
“This prompt action by the Palestinian government will go a long way in improving India-Palestine ties and further cooperation”, and “the immediate dialogue and resolution of the crisis is truly appreciated by both the people of India and Palestine”, it said.
“The rich historical legacy bequeathed upon our nation by Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh and the stalwarts of our freedom struggle, the respect and adulation for the great Yasser Arafat, lives on in our collective memory.”