Eight days after India voted against US President Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinian envoy to Pakistan, Waleed Abu Ali, shared the stage with Mumbai terror attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief, Hafiz Saeed, at a rally in Rawalpindi on Friday. Hours after the photographs of Ali with Saeed surfaced on social media, Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that New Delhi would take up the matter “strongly” with the Palestinian government. “We have seen reports in this regard. We are taking up the matter strongly with the Palestinian ambassador in New Delhi and with the Palestinian authorities,” he said.
The rally was organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a coalition of hardline Islamic parties in Pakistan that campaigns aggressively against India and the United States, in Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh on Friday. Incidentally, this is the same place where former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto addressed her last public rally on December 27, 2007.
Saeed used the occasion to deliver an anti-India and anti-US speech, with references to Kashmir and Israel. Declared a global terrorist by the US State Department, Saeed carries a bounty of $10 million on his head. More importantly, he is wanted by India on charges of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. While he was arrested by Pakistani authorities early this year, he was let off recently by a court there.
The presence of the Palestinian envoy at the rally comes at a time when New Delhi and Ramallah are discussing a likely visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Palestine in February next year. If it takes place, this will be Modi’s first visit to Palestine — he skipped visiting the country during his Israel visit in July. However, he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in May this year. 26/11’s Baby Moshe, Benjamin Netanyahu to visit in January, PM Modi looks at a stop in Palestine
Ali, according to Indian government sources, had, in October-end, held a farewell reception for the outgoing Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale, who left for Beijing. In early December, he met Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Ali’s presence at the rally has disappointed many in New Delhi, since it comes just days after India voted in favour of Palestine at the United Nations. Delhi voted with the Arab world, and majority, at the UN General Assembly, a vote seen as in favour of Palestine.