Khar holds talks with Pak leaders on India talk

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 64 years of independence, plays a dominant role in guiding foreign and security policy.

Updated: Nov 04, 2011, 18:39 PM IST

Islamabad: Against the backdrop of Pakistan`s
flip-flop on the issue of granting the MFN status to India,
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Friday held consultations
with the top civil and military officials here on the dialogue
process with New Delhi.

Khar "consulted all stakeholders on foreign policy
issues, including the resumed dialogue process with India"
during a meeting held at the Foreign Ministry, an official
statement said.

The meeting was "part of regular consultations", it said.
The statement did not give details of what transpired
during the discussions or the names of those who attended the
meeting.

According to media reports, the meeting was attended by
ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Defence Secretary Syed
Athar Ali, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood and Interior
Secretary K M Siddique Akbar.

Lt Gen Mohammad Asif from the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Committee`s headquarters and Lt Gen Waheed Arshad from General
Headquarters too attended the meeting, the reports said.

The meeting was held in the wake of a Cabinet meeting
that authorised the Commerce Ministry to take steps for the
"normalisation of trade relations between Pakistan and India".

Information Minister Firdous Awan had announced after the
Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the Cabinet had unanimously
approved a move to grant the Most Favoured Nation status to
India.

However, a statement issued subsequently by the Foreign
Office quoted its spokesperson Tehmina Janjua as saying that
the Cabinet had only "unanimously decided in principle to
according MFN to India, which both sides will have to work
towards in further engagements by the Commerce Secretaries".

Foreign Minister Khar`s meeting with the top civil and
military officials is the first of a series of consultations
the government plans to hold with stakeholders like the
military on bolstering economic relations with India.

The government intends to use these consultations to take
stock of the discussions held with India since the two
countries agreed to resume their dialogue process in February
this year.

The peace process was stalled for over two years in the
wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which were carried out by
Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half
of its 64 years of independence, plays a dominant role in
guiding foreign and security policy.

The government`s flip-flop on the MFN issue has caused
surprise as Information Minister Awan had said after
Wednesday`s Cabinet meeting that all stakeholders, including
the military and defence institutions, were "on board" for the
decision to grant India the MFN status.

Leading defence analysts like Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood
too have said they believed Pakistan`s military leadership had
given the go-ahead for normalising trade relations with India.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on textiles Mirza Ikhtiar
Baig told the Dawn newspaper that the entire business
community, including chambers of commerce, had backed the
government`s move to grant the MFN status to India.
"The government`s cautious move of liberalising trade
with India is a welcome step," he said.

PTI