Pakistan football team visits Al Aqsa Mosque


JERUSALEM: The Pakistani national football team visited Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, in the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday. The visit surprised many, given that Pakistan does not recognize the Jewish state, and its passport clearly states that it is “valid for all countries of the world except Israel.”
The visit came to light when Football Pakistan, an independent online platform launched in 2003 to promote the world’s most popular sport in the country, tweeted pictures of the Pakistani players with Islamic shrine the Dome of the Rock in the background. One of the images also showed some players prostrating themselves. The website also said that the Pakistani players were scheduled to play a match against Palestine on Friday.
It was not immediately clear how the team reached the shrine in an area that remains under Israeli occupation. Many people in the Middle East view such visits as attempts to “normalize” relations with the “enemy,” arguing that they amount to a tacit acceptance of Israel’s de facto sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Pakistan has pursued backchannel diplomacy with the Jewish state in the past. More recently, there was speculation that an Israeli business jet flew from Tel Aviv to Pakistan via Amman in Jordan, though the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government vehemently denied such reports and said they were part of a conspiracy against the country.