PM Imran Khan criticizes UAE’s formal relationship with Israel

Relations between Pakistan and the UAE appear to be on a sharp downward spiral in recent weeks, particularly after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was critical of the UAE’s formalisation of its relationship with Israel, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.
This has manifested itself not just in the arrest of pro-Palestine Pakistani activists in the UAE, but also of other Pakistani residents, sometimes for minor crimes. The people familiar with the matter said about 5,000 Pakistani inmates are housed in Al Sweihan Jail in Abu Dhabi alone.

It is likely that the UAE could impose tighter visa norms for Pakistani nationals who wish to travel to the Emirates for employment. HT learns that Pakistani residents are finding it difficult to renew Resident Permits, and there has been a buzz about deportation, although no reports of a large-scale exercise to this effect have emerged.

Interestingly, while the immediate trigger may be Khan’s comments, some of the UAE’s moves appear to have been prompted by the findings of its investigation into the 2017 attack in Kandahar in which five UAE diplomats died. The people cited in the first instance said the UAE investigators concluded that the Haqqani Network was behind the attack, and that Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency was also directly involved. Back then, Islamabad’s immediate reaction was to blame Iran for the attack.

The developments in the UAE’s relationship with Pakistan also need to be seen in the context of Saudi Arabia’s ties with Pakistan. Islamabad’s efforts to involve West Asian nations in issues concerning its relationship with New Delhi haven’t gone down well in both countries, the people familiar with the matter added.

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