‘MFN-status to India as a plot against Pak’



Islamabad: An alliance of religious and extremist groups on Saturday said Pakistan should settle the Kashmir issue and differences over sharing river waters before it normalises trade relations with India and gives it Most Favoured Nation-status.

The Defence of Pakistan Council, which includes the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, made the demand in a joint declaration adopted at a meeting of the top leaders of the groups.

The declaration described the move to give MFN-status to India as a "plot against Pakistan".

The council demanded that the government should not take any unilateral move to normalise trade relations. "Before beginning trade with India, the issues of Kashmir and water should be resolved," it said.

The Council's leaders reserved much of their ire for the US and NATO, saying they would launch a country-wide protest if the Pakistan government reopen routes used to transport supplies to American and foreign forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Pakistan shut the supply routes in November in retaliation for a cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Addressing a news conference at a hotel in the heart of Islamabad, the Council's leaders warned they would resist any move by the government to reopen the NATO supply routes.

"This meeting of the Defence of Pakistan Council condemns and rejects the attempts to reopen NATO supply routes under the cover of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security," the joint declaration said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has asked the parliamentary panel to give recommendations for framing new terms of engagement with the US and NATO.

Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (S), alleged that the government intended to reopen the supply routes but gave no proof to substantiate his claim.

The joint declaration said the steps taken by the government after the NATO air strike were right as they had ended American "attacks and terrorism".

It added: "Therefore restoration of the supply routes would simply mean an invitation to more attacks and terrorism against Pakistan."

The declaration asked the Pakistan government to withdraw the country from the US-led war on terror.

Samiul Haq said the leadership of the Council had decided to step up its country-wide movement to create awareness about what he described as "Indian and American terrorism".

He said rallies would be held in Rawalpindi on January 22, in Multan on January 29 and in Karachi on February 12.

JuD chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed was present at the news conference but did not speak.

Others who attended the meeting were former ISI chief Hamid Gul, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hassan, senior JuD leader Abdul Rahman Makki, Awami Muslim League chief Shiekh Rashid Ahmed, PML-Z chief Ijaz-ul-Haq, and senior Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat leader Ghulam Mustafa Jadoon.

PTI