Pakistanis protesting against Israel in Lahore

Islamabad: The Pakistan Foreign Office and Ministry of Trade and Commerce on Sunday rejected reports of any trade or diplomatic links with Israel, saying Islamabad has no diplomatic and trade relations with Tel Aviv, reported Geo News.

The response from Islamabad came days after the American Jewish Congress (AJC), an association of American Jews organised to defend Jewish interests abroad, announced that the first shipment of food products from Pakistan was offloaded in Israel.

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch reacting to the reports of the sale of Pakistani commodities in the Israeli markets said "there is no change" in Pakistan's policy about the Jewish state, reported Geo News.

"There is no change in the policy," she stressed.

The 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, Fishel Benkhald, a Pakistani Jew based in the southern port city of Karachi, went viral for tweeting about his first kosher food shipment to Israel. The two countries do not have diplomatic ties, reported The Times of Israel.

"Congratulations to me as a Pakistani. I exported the first batch of Pakistan food products to [the] Israel market," he said last week.

Meanwhile, 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, reported Geo News.

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, reported Geo News.

"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.

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.

It may be noted that controversy over Pakistan's ties with Israel had been stirred last year over a reported visit of a "Pakistani delegation" to Israel.

The FO spokesperson in a statement had clarified that the "reported visit in question was organised by a foreign NGO which is not based in Pakistan" and that Pakistan's position on the Palestinian issue was clear and unambiguous.

"There is no change whatsoever in our policy on which there is a complete national consensus. Pakistan steadfastly supports the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination," the spokesperson had remarked.