As the public anger on the Pakistani street is bursting against the Gaza conflict–which has entered into the second week–the Imran Khan government is under pressure to reflect that anger by channelising, (a) through state level support for angry demonstrations, and (b) via diplomatic forays into the conflict. The public is angry and wants its government to do something which it has no clue about. Given this pressure, the PTI government does not want to stand idle and seeks to launch diplomatic initiatives. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has embarked on regional tour to meet his counterparts in other Muslim countries including Turkey, and Egypt to find some some sort of solution. But real questions are: Will his diplomatic mission bear fruit? How far Pakistan’s foreign policy is robust enough to engage the parties in conflict or bring to bear any meaningful pressure on them through multilateral engagements? Or is it just a populist move to calm the seething masses? It is worth taking stock of the PTI government’s latest moves on the Gaza conflict. Pakistan’s diplomatic initiative is more border on rhetoric than any substantive policy initiative due to structural default setting in its foreign policy. For example, there are two parties to the conflict i.e Hamas and Israel. With Israel, Pakistan has no formal diplomatic relationship due to support for Palestinians and which is also a strategic partner of India. Recently Pakistan has been facing some pressure to have diplomatic normalcy in ties with Israel. On the other hand, Hamas is the second party, Pakistan does not want to have any formal ties with. It is considered Iranian proxy and an extremist group and the entire GCC countries except Qatar and Egypt have formal relations. Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s counterpart is President Mehmood Abbas who is not a direct party and who has every interest to see Hamas lose even if at the hands of its enemy, i.e, Israel. But Mehmood Abbas has close relations with India and on IOK it toes Delhi’s line more than Islamabad’s. So again Pakistan has limited leverage on him. The foreign minister can ask Turkey to play a role but Turkey is again cannot meet expectations existed in some angry right wing Pakistanis: “break relations with Israel, call in diplomats and halt export to Israel”; but Turkey will not pay that price for Palestinians. The next best bit is Mr Qureshi asking Egypt and Qatar to engage Hamas to contribute to peace making as the more the conflict goes on the more the anger on the streets of Pakistan snowballing into violent demonstrations potentially creating law and order situation. However, Hamas may only want some Pakistani public support and it knows Islamabad has never sought to be closer so there will be no photo opportunity for Mr Qureshi to send a message back home: the government is at the centre stage in resolving the Gaza conflict. The other limit is the government does not want to sound too radical in support for Palestine as it does not want to indirectly annoy Israel. Tel Aviv has very cleverly kept a balance: when it’s dignitaries including PM Netanyahu visited Delhi, they never echoed Indian narratives against Pakistan. It is a common belief that the establishments of both countries would have some communication links till recently so as to ensure there is no complete disconnect. Since Pakistan has no border dispute with Israel, and it has de-hyphenated Israel from India policy in its threat perception, it does not want to go afar in crossing Isreali red lines and vice versa. In the backdrop of the Abraham Accord, Tel Aviv has been successful in establishing at least five countries with formal relations including UAE and ensured dejure recognition by Saudi Arabia without resolving Palestinian issue. So, Islamabad has another nuance that Israel is no longer the diplomatic pariah state, notwithstanding the radicalized populations in the Middle East and Pakistan. Islamabad has to be sensitive to UAE and KSA’s redlines as well: apart from rhetorical support, “no need to discontinue relations with Israel as a lever” a message one clearly obvious given their current diplomatic posture. In other words, yes keep pursuing a two state objective as a permanent solution to have a diplomatic narrative but also be in sync with reality, i.e. keep engaged with Israel at different levels. So Mr Qureshi is well aware of the de-hyphenated Israeli and Palestinian relations of these countries. To pander to the right wing gallery, the Prime Minister Imran Khan may wish to sound like President Erdogan taking cue from latter’s bluster but Pakistan simply can not make a big impact given its vulnerability and the quantum of diplomatic economic and physical heft. Constrained in its move, Pakistan can not provoke Jewish-Chiristian lobby in Washington which is firmly in control of policy levers encompassing the cabinet to the CIA. Any backlash against this lobby will culminate in real hurt to Pakistan’s geo-political interests at times when it is seeking some sort of close convergence with the Biden admin. For this purpose, Islamabad has recently hired lobbying firms to bridge the gap. So, the PTI Government’s ambition may be to be the lead and go-to-country on Gaza conflict, but it’s maneuvers are constrained by certain limits it can not override. Thus, populism can inform and direct diplomatic tactics but can not operationalise real life diplomatic choices.