Pak's volte-face on MFN status to India?
Islamabad: A day after according the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, the Government of Pakistan on Thursday issued several confusing statements which made no direct mention of the significant step it had taken to give a boost to bilateral trade.
As per reports, the Pakistan government has withdrawn claims that it plans to accord the MFN status to India from its official website.
Contrary to the claims made by Pakistan Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan yesterday that the federal Cabinet had unanimously approved a proposal to give India the MFN status, statements issued by the government last night merely said the Cabinet had cleared a proposal for "normalisation of trade relations".
The statements made no mention of the Cabinet approving the Commerce Ministry's summary or proposal for giving India the MFN status, as had been announced by the Information
Significantly, Awan had announced that all stakeholders, including the powerful military, were "on board" for the move to give India MFN status.
After the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Awan's news conference, a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Secretariat late in the night said the Cabinet was "briefed on the steps being taken for normalisation of trade with India".
The Cabinet was "apprised about the further steps to be taken in this direction so as to bring trade in line with our international obligations", the statement said, without making
any mention of giving MFN status to India.
The Cabinet further directed the Commerce Ministry to "ensure that Pakistan's vital national economic interests are fully protected", the statement said.
Another statement issued by the government on the Cabinet meeting's decisions too said the Cabinet had approved the Commerce Division's proposal for "normalisation of trade
relations between Pakistan and India".
The Commerce Secretary made a detailed presentation on trade with India and its historical perspective, this statement said.
Yet another statement that was posted on the Press Information Department website last night, but was subsequently removed, stated that the Cabinet gave the Commerce Ministry the "mandate to take the process of normalisation forward, which would culminate in the observance
of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) principle in its true spirit".
This statement said the Cabinet had "fully endorsed the efforts of the Ministry of Commerce for complete normalization of trade relations and directed to implement in letter and
spirit the decisions taken in this regard".
A spokesman for the Commerce Ministry declined to comment on the matter and said the government's position was enunciated in the statements posted on the Press Information Department website.
India granted Pakistan MFN status way back in 1996 but Islamabad had so far held out on reciprocating due to opposition from some trade lobbies and religious and hardline political parties which contended that such a move would harm the country's stand on the Kashmir issue.
During yesterday's news conference, Information Minister Awan said the move to give India MFN status was in line with Pakistan's national interest and would not compromise its
stand on the Kashmir issue in any way.