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Pakistani delegation visiting Israel promotes vision of peace ‘one step at a time’

After the historic trip by Pakistani Americans to Israel, another group of prominent Pakistanis are in Israel on a peacemaking mission.

Pakistan is among the countries that has no diplomatic relations with Israel because of the lingering issue of Palestinian statehood, and says no government delegation has visited Israel.

The delegation of Pakistani community leaders touring the country as part of a regional peace initiative arrived in Israel last Sunday for a six-day visit designed to foster deeper ties between the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations.

The group, some of whom live in the US and some in Pakistan, also met with President Isaac Herzog, local business leaders and political experts.

As he meandered through the Umariya elementary school, a historic campus built over a former Crusader castle in Jerusalem’s Old City, Dr. Nasim Ashraf reflected on the first days of his maiden voyage through the Holy Land.

“Coming here has cleared up a whole lot of misunderstandings, fixed notions and wrong perceptions,” Ashraf, a former Pakistani government minister, said as he stood in the school’s Ottoman-era courtyard.

The trip was organized by Sharaka, an organization that emerged in the wake of the 2020 Abraham Accords — a series of normalization deals between Israel and several Arab nations — to promote peace and cooperation in the region, alongside the American Muslim and Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council.

For Ashraf, joining the delegation was a logical step after decades spent promoting interfaith dialogue.

“Since the Abraham Accords, I’ve sensed there is definitely an appetite [in Pakistan] for peace with Israel. There is a lot of opposition too — one step at a time. We started the conversation in 2005 when I was a member of the government’s cabinet.”

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