This week Palestinians hailed a UN Human Rights Council decision to investigate the possible war crimes that Israel committed during its 11-day aggression against Gaza earlier this month.
On Thursday, during a meeting on Gaza tabled upon the joint request of the missions of Palestine and Pakistan, the latter being the coordinator for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet told the council that the Israeli attacks on Gaza during its conflict with Hamas could amount to war crimes.
Israel rejected the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council despite the fact that the mandate of the independent investigation covers the whole range of the confrontation, including the Hamas missiles against Israel.
“It is expected that Israel will reject the independent investigation simply because it will reveal the Israeli barbarism and the impact of the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza,” commented Tahir Ashrafi, advisor to the Pakistani prime minister on the Middle East.
Speaking on the phone from Islamabad hours after the UN Human Rights Council resolution was passed at the Geneva headquarters, Ashrafi said that Pakistan is “committed to continue to do all the work necessary” not just in Geneva but also in New York, at the headquarters of the UN, to get the world to condemn Israel for its “crimes in Gaza.”
“We believe we have the full support of the OIC and the leading countries there to keep up our work to reveal Israeli crimes,” Ashrafi said. He added that Pakistan is going to be working with member states of the OIC to hold Israeli officials accountable before the International Criminal Court.
“Our Palestinian brothers suffered so much and had it not been for the excellent work that Egypt did when it managed to secure a ceasefire they could have suffered a lot more. Gaza had come under devastating attacks,” he said.
“We support the remarkable work that Egypt did to end the war on Gaza and we will do everything we can to help Egypt with its appeal for the reconstruction of Gaza,” Ashrafi added.
Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to discuss developments in Gaza. According to a statement by the presidential press office, Khan condemned the Israeli aggression and praised Egypt for securing a ceasefire. Khan also said that his country is fully behind the right of Palestinians to secure an end to the Israeli aggression and Israeli occupation of territories seized in 1967.
According to Ashrafi, who is also the chief of the Pakistani Ulama Council, Pakistan and Egypt will be coordinating their diplomatic motions both through the OIC “along with other keen member states,” and bilaterally “at a time where the bilateral relations between our two countries are getting stronger.”
Late last week, Egypt and Pakistan started their joint air defence exercise Sky Guardians 1. The exercises that started on Thursday were scheduled to last for five days in Egypt.
“Our military cooperation is only one element of an otherwise expanding cooperation that covers a wide range of economic and cultural issues,” Ashrafi said.
In February, Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Quershi visited Egypt to meet President El-Sisi and discuss upgrading cooperation between Cairo and Pakistan.
“We are also expecting Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to visit Islamabad sometime around June,” Ashrafi said. He added that the exchange of the official visits and calls comes in parallel with the expected expansion of trade, investment, and cultural cooperation.
“We already have several leading Egyptian companies that work in Pakistan and we are looking for more bilateral cooperation,” he said.
According to Ashrafi, the “great cooperation with Al-Azhar and its Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb” remains one of the most important elements of bilateral Pakistani-Egyptian relations. “We have so many students who go to Egypt, particularly to Al-Azhar, to study there – both Arabic and Islamic studies,” he said. “And we also receive teachers from Al-Azhar who work in Pakistan and we are currently working on opening a centre for Al-Azhar in Pakistan to allow many more students to benefit from what it has to offer,” he added.
Egypt and Pakistan, Ashrafi said, are “two important Muslim countries that have a lot of work to do together to serve the interests of their populations and the wider Muslim world; there is a strong will on both sides to upgrade this cooperation, for sure,” he added.