Pakistanis under probe say five relatives still in Israel

ISLAMABAD: The five Pakistanis arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on charges of illegally travelling and working in Israel, have told investigators that five of their family members were still in the middle eastern country that Pakistan does not recognise as a state and bars its citizens from visiting.

The suspects, who belong to the same family from Mirpurkhas, were identified as Muhammad Anwar, Muhammad Kamran Siddiqui, Kamil Anwar, Muhammad Zeeshan and Noman Siddiqui. They were accused of entering Israel from Jordan via Turkey, Kenya and Sri Lanka, using fake passports and visas.

According to the FIA, the suspects had spent four to seven years in Israel, working as helpers and car washers in Tel Aviv. They also sent money to their families in Pakistan as foreign remittances through the Western Union of Pakistan post office. A total amount of around Rs2 million was remitted to Pakistan in a span of six years.

The FIA said that the suspects had violated multiple laws, including the Passport Act 1974 and the Emigration Ordinance 1979, by travelling to a country that was not recognised by Pakistan. The FIA also said that the suspects had concealed their religious identity during their stay in Israel for personal security reasons.

The FIA further said that five more members of the same family were still in Israel. They include three senior citizens who have not been nominated in the First Information Report (FIR) yet. The FIA said that it was trying to trace and arrest them as well.

The FIA also revealed that one of the suspects had an aunt named Rifqa, who had been residing in Israel for 40 years. Rifqa’s father had married a Jewish woman of Iranian descent after she converted to Islam. Rifqa has two brothers and one sister, who are also Pakistanis and have travelled to Israel.

The FIA said that the travel arrangements for the family were made by Ishaq Matat, who is said to be Rifqa’s husband. Anwar, in a statement to the FIA, said he paid Rs300,000 to Ishaq for logistic and travel help and to find work in Tel Aviv.

The FIA said that it launched the investigation after the State Bank of Pakistan detected suspicious remittances originating from Israel. The FIA said that it was also probing the sources and motives of these remittances.

Pakistan and Israel have no diplomatic relations and Pakistan has repeatedly expressed its support for the Palestinian cause. Pakistan is one of the 30 countries that have refused to establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

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