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Pakistan’s Jewish Ghosts

According to the state’s election commission, there are 800 registered Jewish voters. That’s bogus.

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People gather at Seaview waterfront to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day on August 14, 2011 in Karachi, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
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The late New York mayor told me he wanted to be remembered by my son Daniel Pearl’s final words: ‘I am Jewish.’

The News, Pakistan’s largest English-language publication, had some stirring political tidbits to share with its readers yesterday: “According to the Election Commission of Pakistan,” the newspaper reported, “there are around 800 Jewish voters registered in Pakistan out of which 427 are women and 382 men.”

Karachi’s campaign managers, however, needn’t polish their Hebrew just yet. Even if there are indeed as many Jews in Pakistan as the election commission claims—which is highly unlikely—the Islamic nation’s relations with its Jews is a long and grim story, one that begins with mere tolerance and ends, famously, horrifically, with the slaying of Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002.

According to a recent history by Hebrew University anthropologist Shalva Weil, as Pakistan slouched toward independence, it had a number of minuscule but thriving Jewish communities in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and Lahore. Some of Pakistan’s Jews belonged to India’s Bene Israel community, others were brought on by the British to fill a host of administrative positions, and still others had trickled in from Afghanistan. By 1941, a government census recorded 1,199 Jews nationwide, sufficiently at home for one of them, a local leader named Abraham Reuben, to become the first Jew elected to Karachi’s city council.

All that soon changed. As India was partitioned in 1947, Mohajir, or Muslim refugees, filed into the newly minted Dominion of Pakistan, often ransacking Jewish synagogues and prayer halls on their way. Many of Pakistan’s Jews, in turn, fled in the opposite direction, settling in India. The following year, with Israel having declared its independence, things grew even tenser when rioters burnt down a Karachi synagogue to protest Harry Truman’s diplomatic recognition of the Jewish state. Wasting little time, Pakistan’s Jews soon began their exodus, scurrying to Israel and elsewhere.

But even if the disappearance of its Jewish population was of little concern to the Islamic republic, the existence of the Jewish state presented far thornier issues: It was difficult to look at the two nations—born within months of each other, each having bloomed, as one scholar put it, as a result of “a religion-based territorial division”—and not notice the striking similarities.

These commonalities encouraged many of Israel’s early leaders to pursue an alliance with Pakistan. In January of 1948, for example, Chaim Weizmann, soon to become Israel’s first president, corresponded with Sir Zafrulla Khan, Pakistan’s eloquent and charismatic foreign minister. “Our small state in Palestine,” Weizmann wrote, “shall soon have to follow you. Many problems will be common to both of us, and it is my earnest hope that it may be possible for us to deal with them together, and in cooperation, for the good of both of our peoples.” Khan was inclined to listen, even meeting with Weizmann in New York later that year. But his advocacy of embracing the Jewish state soon failed. Fashioning itself a champion of Muslims everywhere, and actively involved in supporting the Palestinian cause, Pakistan quickly sided with the Arabs in seeing Israel’s establishment as land theft pure and simple. Khan himself made that argument well, claiming that while Pakistani Muslims have only claimed the regions in which they were a clear majority, the Jews in Palestine did no such thing. “The United Nations,” he thundered, “cannot subscribe to the principle that a racial or religious minority, whether arising from national development or created as a result of immigration, can insist upon the breaking up of a homeland or shatter the political, geographical, and economic unity of a country without the consent and against the wishes of the majority.”

The same logic prevailed for decades to come, intensifying with the political ascent of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “There were two issues he was strong on,” a friend of Bhutto’s once confessed, “the destiny of Pakistan and a fanatical hatred of Israel.” As host of the Second Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore in 1974, he made his opinions of the Jewish state clearly known: “Any agreement,” he stated, “any protocol, any understanding that postulates the continuance of Israeli occupation of the Holy City or the transfer of the City to any non-Muslim or non-Arab sovereignty will not be worth the paper it is written on.”

And yet, for all his vehemence, Bhutto also insisted that his grievance was with Israel, not with Jews as such. “To Jews as Jews, we bear no malice,” he said shortly after taking office as Pakistan’s prime minister. “To Jews as Zionists, intoxicated with their militarism and reeking with technological arrogance, we refuse to be hospitable.”

The difference between Jews as Jews and Jews as Zionists, however, was often blurred. With each new conflagration in the Arab-Israeli conflict came new waves of anti-Semitic violence. By the time the dust settled in the aftermath of the Six Day War, Weil had found, there were only 350 Jews left in the entire country, all of them in Karachi. Two decades later, in 1988, when President Zia Ul-Hak ordered the razing of the historic Magen Shalom synagogue in Karachi to make way to a shopping mall, there were no more than a handful of Jews present to object.

And with no Jews to witness firsthand, Pakistanis were free to nurture the darkest thoughts about their enemies. After he’d crashed into a parked vehicle and killed its driver four years ago, Nazir Ahmed, the Pakistani-born member of the British House of Lords, gave an interview to a Pakistani television station and, speaking in Urdu, blamed his incarceration on anything but his driving. “My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians,” he said. “My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this.” He then argued that the judge in his case owed his appointment to a Jewish friend of Tony Blair’s. Ahmed has since apologized for his statements, but his opinions seem to be far from a rare occurrence among Pakistanis. Writing in the New Statesman last month, columnist Mehdi Hasan argued that anti-Semitism was commonplace among Pakistanis and British Muslims of Pakistani descent.

“The truth,” he wrote, “is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old. No, the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict hasn’t helped matters. But this goes beyond the Middle East. How else to explain why British Pakistanis are so often the most ardent advocates of anti-Semitic conspiracies, even though there are so few Jews living in Pakistan?”

Meanwhile, some Pakistani politicians are arguing that normalization of relations with Israel was inevitable. Former President Pervez Musharraf, for example, last year became the first Pakistani official to give an interview to an Israeli newspaper, arguing that his nation had to “keep readjusting its diplomatic stand toward Israel based on the mere fact that it exists and is not going away.” Musharraf is most likely plotting his re-entry to Pakistani politics; too bad he won’t even have 800 Jewish voters in his corner.


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There was a prominent former Jew in Pakistan’s early history. Muhammad Asad, born Leopold Weiss in Lemberg, was a Pakistani diplomat at the UN. He left Judaism for Islam in Berlin in the 1920s.

Lynne T says:

Pakistani Canadian journalist and activist Tarek Fateh claims one of his grandmothers was Jewish, which may account for his genuinely anti-Islamist views.

    boazkhait says:

    Seems like an awful longshot of a strategy on the part of Israel’s patron and biggest ally.

    Contentious Centrist says:

    No offense but this reminds me of the jaw-dropping conspiracy theory by an Iranian immigrant to Canada who told me the Islamic Revolution and installment of the Ayatollah regime were engineered by covert American operatives.

      I’ve asked a young Afghan why he left Afghanistan: he said “because Americans invaded my country”. Americans are leaving so he should return.

    One doesn’t have to be Jewish to dislike Islam. I found a massive black hole in your logic; USA tells Pakistanis: Don’t get friendly with USSR because they are mates with Israel, stick with us, USA hates Israel! BTW USSR was on Arab side for a long time and antisemitism in USSR was prevalent. I was there in the mid 70. And really…….Pakistan hates Jews enough and doesn’t need any encouragement.

herbcaen says:

England has now become the frontier northwest province of Pakistan. Women are raped (traditional Pakistani hospitality for women), synagogues are attacked, and the press of Britain (BBC, Der Guardian, etc) now shamelessly copies the Pakistani press. Both the union of Pakistan and New Pakistan (England) can be referred to as Krapistan

    Utter bullshit.

    Just returning the favor for UK & US continuously supporting Islamist dictatorship in Pakistan and derailing Pakistani democracy time & again! The fire of West funded Islamic extremism that ravaged Pakistan and Afghanistan is now reaching back home on the shores of Atlantic.

      herbcaen says:

      The entire premise of the creation of Pakistan is that Muslims could not prosper in Hindu India. While in the 1960s, India was a byword for poverty, it has succeeded in raising itself. However, Pakistan today is in worse shape than in 1947, and the world would be better off if Pakistan was absorbed by India. There is no positive reason for Pakistan to exist and many compelling reasons for it to be resorbed, just like E Germany was resorbed to become Germany

        rightcoaster says:

        The world might well be better off, but India would not be better off.

        You know nothing about India hindu religion and its terrorist groups specially about Indian hindu culture for what reason they take a bath in ganga river to wash their sins you know beside many but one of the famous hindu extremist terrorist organisation Bal takeray ShivSena Achievements of ShivSena in 50 Years of Independence: 1. Harass hardworking Tamil People. 2. Harass North Indians. 3. Beat Bihari’s 4. Beat People from Uttar Pradesh Province. 5. Beat and Harass Muslims and Christians and other minorities. 6. Force all North Indians to learn Marati Language. 7. Joins with Terror organisation RSS and demolish Babri Masjid, Reason for Bombay Blasts. 8. HARASS FOREIGNERS. 9. Beat Youngsters on Valentines day. 10.Beat North Indian Politicians. 11.Create Communal rifts between Hindus and Christians Muslims other minorities 12.Create Communal Rifts between Maratis and North Indians. 13.Beat and Harass Bollywood Personalities. 14.Finally all day sit and get Money by force from North Indians/Muslims/Christians/Bollywood/Bihari/South Indians. Civilized country?Rapists In a civilized country like India they burned to kill 5,000 women and children in Gujrat. A top rated corrupt nation declared by International survey.Gang rapes in India which are at the highest level in the world You might knew the most recent brutal rape of the history that happened in india Delhi so they do sins and then take bath isn’t ridiculous? In Civilized India hundreds of peasants commit suicide every year because they are poor Indians.

          Reality always bites, Shiv sena did it only in mumbai , whereas mullas chamchas in the name islam do it in all mussy countires

    The United Nations has said INDIA is the most dangerous place to be a girl. Dr. Anand Krishnan at All INDIA Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who has studied the gender gap for years, agree lives.
    Infanticide is an open secret but it is next to impossible to prove the crime in india Girls are buried in the desert and no one in the clan ever inquires about the newborn or mourns the loss She was a student

    She was 23

    Her fault some people say because she boarded the wrong bus

    And oh yeah


    Six men raped her one by one and then used an iron rod to tear her vagina

    Small intestine and large intestine came out

    They left her to die on the road





    What’s more is that no one even turned to look at her

    No one even bothered to throw a shawl on the ill-clad

    ill-fated girl

    She can never live a normal married life again

    She Went into coma five times since 16th December

    She was unconscious

    Critical and hasn’t been able to stop crying

    But don’t worry

    She wasn’t your sister

    She wasn’t your daughter

    But she could be. The brutality has to stop right here guys

    These people deserve capital punishment for their heinous

    Perverted act

    She died Saturday 28th

    December 2012

    Rest in Peace? and I pray that her killers get the WORST punishment possible

    This doesn’t only happen in India..

    But in every country around the world..

    Is this how we treat our women?

    It Makes us ashamed to even live on this planet today,

    A planet where the Rape-ublic of India exists.:(

    daily more than 500 rapes in india most of them are not reported due to threats.

      Desicanuk says:

      A Porkistani islamofascist and a rabid antisemite trying out his anti-India rant in a Jewish magazine!!!Despite our faults we Indians are the most pro-Israel people in this world.Jews are our best friends and we theirs.Sorry to say that politically correct Congress govt of India shys away from strengthening India-Israel bond.

AlgorithmicAnalyst says:

Thanks, interesting article.

Bataween Smith says:

There are perhaps 10 Jews still in Pakistan but they hide their identity. There has been renewed interest in the topic – students put on a play recently and a film was made on Karachi’s Jewish cemetery. Most Pakistani Jews resettled in Israel. Here is my collection of articles:

Austin says:

I honesty don’t understand why any Jew wants to live in Europe. Two wonderful Jewish communities would love to have you all, those of American and Israel the two nations where the future of the Jewish people is being decided. Please come and live in an area where you can openly practice your faith.

Alexandra_8 says:

Liel Leibovit, the largest english language newspaper in Pakistan is “The News”? Are you sure its not “The Dawn”? That’s the only english language paper I read it Pakistan. And it’s God awful.


      Alexandra_8 says:

      Then Pakistan has such little power in their own land. The Taliban in Pakistan are most certainly following a fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Not Hindu. Pakistan has so many domestic problems, the biggest of their problems are within Pakistan. Pointing fingers at India does nothing to address the real domestic issues that are keeping Pakistan from progressing.

Afghan-Jew says:

its true that there were many Jews on the soil of pakistan(pak-satan), and majority of them were Afghan-Jews.But they left the region to move to central asia after islamists tried to execute them and these islamists were trained and used by pakistani military intelligence in a very much organized manner.


Faisal KSomething says:

I am a Pakistani Jew (my maternal grandmother was a Jew from
Iran migrated to Pakistan) and we are struggling for Jews rights in Pakistan against
the anti-Semitic policies. I support the divine right of Jews for a State of

toheed says:

faisal IF you are a JEW the pork cost then go to Israel and we Pakistani dont want any one of Jew in our country we will start war with you very soon and we will crush you all Jews on Earth are may be 8 million and Muslims are 3billion we will crush you in a flash Pakistan is the land of Muslim not jew and we will take Israel from you also we will attack on Israel very soon.

ADDRESS: – Bangalore-560076.
Karnataka state, INDIA.
Contact No.: +91-80-9986930810

The Pakistan violating the ceasefire in the border of kishtwar, LoC and infiltrating the terrorists in to the India is very shameful. There is a vast proof in regarding to the act done by the Pakistan army with support of terrorists and pak government. Even the top terrorists LeT leader Abdul karim Tunda is spilling a beans of all leading informations to the investigating agency in India. Even former Pakistan ISI chief Abdul Gul, Underworld Don Dawood Ibrahim with ISI cover is also working under the terrorists. Some of the Madrassas in Pakistan is owned by the terrorists leaders is used for recruiting, training poor & Illeterate childrens for terrorists and in dealing with arms and ammunitions. This shows that the Madrassas is not used for preaching Islamic purposes in Pakistan but only for terrorists organizations training. The killing of the Indian soldiers in an ambush in Indian territory, attack at yemen, attack at jalabad embassy and threatening entire nations by the terror outfit like Al-qaeda, JuD, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Taliban, Mujahidin, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, etc., has become dangerous to the nations for attacks against innocent peoples of the country. We are calling for strong reactions against these terrorists from the nations. These has become serious incidents after killing and threatening the countries & attack against the innocent peoples. There are so many ceasefire violation from the Pakistan counterpart. Still it is on. We must message to Pakistan, afganisthan that these kinds of attacks will not be tolerated anymore. It is useless to debate the birth of Pakistan which is getting more radical and Talibanized. The attackers and terrorists are well trained in Pakistan with sufficient flow of fund, shelter and food from the Pakistan country itself. Pakistan terrorists are also using fake currency notes to smuggle to india and other parts also. Some of the terrorists is under the cover of ISI in Pakistan which has been proved by the agency. Everytime these incident happens, our country lodge protest. Now also pakistan have violated the ceasefire in LoC. But the pak has been in denial at every events. The Pakistan has become liar. Those countries who support the Pakistan will have to suffer in future by their own hand. Even the pak will spoil the neighbouring countries by making terrorism country. Pakistan is shed up in more light on the radicalization and methods of indoctrination and recruitment of more terrorists. Pakistan country is the godfather for spreading Islamic terrorism. It seems to be the Pakistan is a Unislamic country. The catch of most wanted terrorists of Indian Mujahidden Co-Founder Yassin Bhatkal from the information of LeT terrorists Tunda spilling the entire details before the police and most of the kids and illiterate persons getting training from the Pakistan land terrorist organization seems to be encouraged by the Pakistan country itself. The pak terrorists will sneak in your country also and make the environment of neighbor country very dirty. If pakistan is not creating terrorists/terrorism then from where terrorists are coming. Are they coming from heaven. Sufficient warn and advice had given from the neighbouring country but pak have not attempted to control the terrorists. Instead of they are encouraging them. Some of the terrorists leader like Mohd. Hafeez Saeed, has given VVIP security and sheltered in Pakistan. The Pakistan has supporting the terrorists groups. Those who give specific information nor behead the terrorists leaders like Mhd. Hafeez Saeed, Ayman –al-Zawahri, Nasser al-wuhaysi, Taliban leaders must be given bounty to the informer. These crookes will poise entire nation. Instead it is better to eliminate these terrorists. I also came to know that some of the terrorists like Mohd. Hafiz
Saeed, osama bin Laden, Ayman-al-Zawahri were beggers and begging in the streets of North Waaristan. Later they became small time thieves. Now they are terrorists and treated as a VVIPs in Pakistan. These beggers are using as Jihadi. But in Pakistan they are not preaching islam. Instead of preaching Islam they are preaching terrorism. Actually Pakistan attack & crossing the LOC has now become a daily affair. Lodging a protest with Islamabad over the killings is the routine response,and it has been done. Countries must read the message of the killings carefully before it moves forward. Pakistan is already in deep crisis due to the coalition with the terrorists. The terrorists are ruling the Pakistan. The army is unwilling to conduct high intensity counter-in-surgency operations due to apprehensions that fighting fellow muslims would be demotivating in the long run. Many soldiers, including officers are known to have refused to fight fellow muslims. The cases of fratricide have reported. And now the questions being raised about the army’s lack of professionalism in operations and its withering internal cohesion. The environment and conditions for peace are only going to get worse soon, with Afghan situation also becoming a factor in countries relations. It is time to teach fitting lesson to Pakistan, Afganistan. It is pakistan’s very old crooked practice to talk of peace and cooperation to be continuously carried on and then stab in India’s back frequently. The ISI, Army with terrorists of Pakistan is waging a war against the nations. Entire nation should be united in unison manner and to retaliate strongly and warn the Pakistan, Afganistan government. If we go by the past ISI’s track record it is certainly planned for the next five to ten years. The Taliban warning to pakistan government in regarding not to kill militants is nothing but a warning to a global terror. Entire militants should be killed without any mercy and their dead bodies should be thrown to the seashore without handing to their families. Just like the what the Terrorists Osama Bin Laden Fate occurred. Militants should not be given any mercy. What is jihad? Whether it terms to kill innocent people according to the terrorists? The Militants are fools. The Militants will not learn anything unless they are killed, as all the militants/ terrorists head are filled with cow dung. The countries like US, China must seriously engage with India and other global powers so that they could rein in Pakistan diplomatically. The US forces/Nato-led combat troops should not be withdrawn until all the terrorists groups have been dismantled nor eliminated. The terrorists/ militants should be eradicated from the earth. Till that drone attack or launch attack must be proceeded wherever the terrorists has been sheltered in Pakistan, Afghanistan land. Pakistan is ruling with the support of terrorists. The terror groups are funded with the currency which is from Hawaala. The Reserve Bank should keep a vigil on money/monetary flow from one account to another. We have to improve our own surveillance.
We all the countries should gather and must re-group, unite to fight against terrorists/terrorism and should give them a telling blow.

jan momberg says:

Some of my best friends are Pakistanis!

Emme K says:

You’ve to know that almost no one, especially educated people liked Gen Zia, a military dictator who imposed martial law and had the pro-USSR leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged to come to power. He was the biggest pro-West dictator Pakistan ever had to put up with. In fact all dictators in Pakistan were pro-West; how is it that a country where majority are pro-China end up with dictators pro-US? Anyway, Gen. Zia carried out public flogging to intimidate the general public, introduced ‘reforms’ nothing but hassle for women…in short, the demolition of the Karachi synagogue was done by a dictator against whom the public could do nothing. He radicalised Pak by interfering in the media, schools everything. The recent extremism in Pakistan is as much causing Muslims harm as any other minority. My point is, extremists have no religion even if they claim, so please don’t think bad about all Pakistanis. And Daniel Pearl was killed by terrorists, not general Pakistanis. Please get the difference.

@Vilop, sir, what about India violating and attacking along the LOC while Pakistan army was carrying out crackdown against Taliban? Talk about pouring salt on wounds. There are so many other instances. When will you get its nothing but political agenda?

Emme K says:

By the way, in addition to my original comment I forgot to add, except for the Daniel Pearl part, overall the article wasn’t biased or claimed often highly questionable material regarding Pakistan. A relief really, considering the silly posts with half-truths and whole lies one reads about Pakistan in Fox News-type newspapers and magazines.


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Pakistan’s Jewish Ghosts

According to the state’s election commission, there are 800 registered Jewish voters. That’s bogus.

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