Muslims protest Pakistan-Israel ties
Arabic newspaper, Islamic groups condemn meeting between Israeli, Pakistani foreign ministers, as well as plan by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to address Jewish group in New York. London-based al-Quds al-Arabi: talks 'reward' Sharon for 1.5 tons of settlement rubble
Radical Islamic groups around the world wasted little time in responding to Thursday's meeting between Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Kasuri.
"The president has rewarded Sharon for destroying settlements and leaving a million-and-a-half tons of rubble," fumed Abdul Bari Atwan editor-in-chief of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.
"In doing so, he has also rewarded him (Sharon) for continued building of the racist wall and expanding settlements in the West Bank.
"The most dangerous thing is that he has given Sharon these rewards just days before he goes to the United Nations, where he will be received as a peacemaker by the entire Muslim world," said Atwan.
In addition, radical Islamic groups called on supporters to rally outside mosques across the country on Friday to condemn the first formal talks between Pakistan and Israel, saying the talks were a step toward diplomatic recognition.
About 300 supporters of an opposition coalition of six Islamic parties, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, gathered in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Smaller protests were staged by the coalition in Quetta and Karachi. At a rally in Rawalpindi, near the capital, only about a dozen people showed up.
MMA's chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, sharply criticized President Gen. Pervez Musharraf for sending Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri to Turkey for talks with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom on Thursday, despite the government's insistence it does not signal imminent diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
"Only one individual (Musharraf) took this decision. We condemn it," said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, deputy chief of the coalition of Islamic parties.
However, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the decision to hold talks with Israel was based on a request from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who wanted them to play a role in helping to resolve the Middle East crisis.
"Pakistan has not recognized Israel," he said, adding that "any such decision would be taken in supreme national interests after due consultation of the parliament."
Pakistan, a Muslim country that in the past has taken a harder line against Israel than some Arab countries, met with the Israelis following the demolition of Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip, which was completed last week.
After Thursday's landmark meeting, Musharraf told reporters that the government had made no decision to
establish formal ties with Israel.
"Pakistan will not recognize Israel until the establishment of a free and independent state for the
Palestinian people," He said, adding that Thursday's meeting "does not mean that we have recognized Israel."
Musharraf, has angered Pakistani opposition groups by calling for a debate on whether Pakistan should recognize the Jewish state, and has courted further criticism by agreeing to speak at a Jewish interfaith conference in New York later this month.
However, Pakistan officials have said there are no plans for Musharraf to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when they are in New York to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting.
On Friday, Israel said that talk of a possible meeting between Sharon and Musharraf was premature.
"We have to examine carefully how the issue is received by public opinion in Pakistan," Ron Prosor, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told Israel Army Radio. "We have to build this (closer contacts) the way we have built the meeting so far."