Ex-Pakistan president wants Israel ties

By Jennifer Lipman, January 9, 2012

The former president of Pakistan has suggested the Muslim-majority should develop warmer relations with Israel.

Pakistan, like many countries in the region, does not have official ties with the Jewish state. But Pervez Musharraf, who was president of Pakistan until 2008 and has expressed his ambition for a political comeback, told Ha'aretz newspaper that the country had nothing to lose "by trying to get on Israel's good side".

"Israel is a country which has certain clout," he said, by way of explanation.

"We have been anti-Israel in Pakistan because of Palestine," he said. "But I believe in realism and in assessing ground realities. A lot has happened since 1948, and one has to adjust."

He said Pakistan needed to "keep readjusting its diplomatic stand toward Israel based on the mere fact that it exists and is not going away".

However he was critical of Israel and of the US government's support for the country. "You are alienating the Muslim community as a whole and that is why extremism and Islamic political parties are gaining strength," he said.

His remarks were criticised by Pakistan's media, with journalist Faisal Farouq arguing that Mr Musharraf should focus less on Israel and more on his own political rehabilitation.

"His demand shows that he had no concerns with desires of the Pakistanis," he said.

Last updated: 6:52pm, January 9 2012