Imran Khan, the chairman of Pakistan’s opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and a former cricket star, said he will file a libel lawsuit against a prominent cleric for calling him a “Jewish agent.” Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the Secretary-General of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), an extremely conservative religious party, has accused Khan of working an “agent for the Jewish lobby” and made the charges all throughout the recent political campaign that was ultimately won by Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League party -- an election that Imran Khan claims was "rigged.”
Last week, during an appearance on a show called “Jirga” on the privately held Geo News Channel, Maulana Rehman declared that after much investigation he came to the conclusion that Imran Khan is employed by “the Jewish lobby” in Pakistan. "I know what I am saying and Imran knows nothing about Pakistan or Islam," Maulana said, after the host warned that he was making serious allegations against a very popular figure in the country. Maulana reiterated that Imran was planted into Pakistani politics in order to work on behalf of the Jews. It is unclear if Maulana Rehman thinks Imran Khan himself is Jewish or if he is simply a paid agent of Israel or other Jewish entities.
In response, Imran Khan said he will bring Maulana Rehman to court in order to “let him prove him in the country his allegations against me.” Imran angrily told a press conference on Sunday: "I have heard enough ... The matter will now be heard in court and people will know the truth.”
Pakistani media speculated that Maulana Rehman may have been incensed by the fact that in his party’s traditional stronghold, the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province in northwestern Pakistan, Imran Khan’s PTI performed far better than the local JUI-F candidate during the May general elections.
Imran also made a counter-charge against Maulana Rehman -- citing diplomatic documents provided by Wikileaks, Maulana Rehman allegedly met with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan a few years ago and asked her to install him as the prime minister of Pakistan in exchange for “any service.” Indeed, the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables made some very damaging and embarrassing comments about Maulana Rehman, including charges that, in stark contrast to his image as being anti-American (and an outspoken supporter of the Taliban), he has been very cooperative with U.S. officials in Pakistan. Another cable noted that Maulana Rehman approached Anne Peterson (the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan between 2007 and 2010) and sought her help in making him Pakistan’s prime minister during a festive dinner that he hosted for her and other Americans.
“[Maulana Rehman] enjoys being courted by both [former President Pervez] Musharraf and [Benazir] Bhutto and sees himself increasingly in the lucrative position of being kingmaker, if not the next prime minister, because of JUI-F’s voter strength in what may be a three-way vote tie among Pakistan’s major parties,” Peterson wrote in a cable. “Even if JUI-F’s voter support drops, [Maulana Rehman] has made it clear that, free and fair elections notwithstanding, his still significant number of votes are up for sale.” She added: “At one point in the conversation, [Maulana] Rehman asked [me] if the [U.S. government] would deal with him if he was elected as prime minister and cautioned the [U.S. government] not to put all of its eggs in the basket of Benazir Bhutto.”
As for Imran Khan, he was once married to a British woman named Jemima Goldsmith, whose father, Sir James Goldsmith, one of Britain’s wealthiest businessmen, was indeed Jewish. Imran has faced accusations that he is a paid agent for Zionists before.
Since its founding as a Muslim state, Pakistan has repeatedly expressed hostility to the State of Israel and Zionists in general. While there are practically no Jews living in Pakistan today (perhaps no more than 200 in a country of some 180 million), the accusation of being a “Jewish agent” or “Zionist agent” can be quite damaging to a political figure. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, about 2,500 Jews lived in what is now Pakistan at the beginning of the 20th century, principally in the coastal city of Karachi (then British India). By 1948, after the formation of the state of Pakistan and the state of Israel, the handful of Jews in the country (estimated at about 2,000) suffered attacks, saw their synagogues burned to the ground and subsequently emigrated, primarily to neighboring India, and also to Israel and the United Kingdom.
In 1974, the Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir’s father) declared in a speech: “To Jews as Jews we bear no malice; to Jews as Zionists, intoxicated with their militarism and reeking with technological arrogance, we refuse to be hospitable.” In solidarity with Arab Muslim states, Pakistan has never recognized Israel.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.