ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet rejected resumption of trade with India as suggested by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), reiterating the government’s stated position that India should first revert to the August 5, 2019 position and move towards resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said this while addressing a press conference here on Thursday, after attending the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan through the video link.
The minister emphasized that resumption of trade with India is not possible without the resolution of the core dispute of Kashmir. “We favour trade with New Delhi, but India should first return to the pre August 5 position. Such decisions (trade resumption) will be gauged vis-à-vis the yardstick set in this context by the government,” he said. He said the media gave headlines of government’s decision to resume trade with India in the context of textile sector and sugar, which was just a recommendation of the ECC, while the ultimate decision was to be taken by the federal cabinet. He emphasized and clarified that the ECC recommendations could not be interpreted as the government’s decision.
The minister said Indian Prime Minister Modi had written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan offering him best wishes and referred to improvement in the Pak-India ties, which indeed was a good thing. The minister said PM Imran told his Indian counterpart if he wanted peace, then India should first revert to the pre-August 5 position so that they could move towards the settlement of the Kashmir issue, which would open new avenues of cooperation.
“It is not possible that while the Muslims are treated as second rate citizens, they are ruthlessly massacred and the Kashmiris denied their rights, Pakistan and India continue to ignore all this, conduct business as usual and be peaceful. The government and prime minister’s stated position is that the key to peace in South Asia lies in the solution of the Kashmir problem,” he contended. Replying to a question, the minister asserted that no one could dare compromise on the Kashmir issue with India, particularly during the PTI government.
Chaudhary said the cabinet had approved issuing health cards to Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad and fixed new prices for 43 medicines without increasing the price of any medicine, as provision of free health services to people was the major priority of prime minister. He said it had also been decided to improve the performance of bureaucracy. The minister said the process for expelling incompetent bureaucrats had been made easy and the prime minister has ordered looking for officers showing lack of interest in work so they could be relieved of their duties.
He said action had also been ordered against those involved in the sugar scandal.“According to the decisions given under the Petroleum Crisis Report, Nadeem Babar has been removed from office to in order to conduct a forensic audit. Now three major actions i.e. administrative, criminal and legal actions have been given a go ahead,” Fawad said. He said in terms of administration, the officers of DG Oil, Port Qasim Authority would be sacked and professionals would be appointed and a monitoring cell would be set up in the Petroleum Division.
The minister noted that the prime minister had appreciated the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and directed making overseas Pakistanis a part of the election process. He said they would try to use EVM partially in the upcoming AJK elections and propose it to the relevant Kashmir authorities.
Fawad said he was happy that the speaker and the opposition have held a meeting on Thursday. “We want this process to move forward. The opposition should be involved in this process, and the government and the opposition should evolve a consensus to work out reform in the system of elections so that everyone accepts the poll results,” he said.
Meanwhile, according to APP, the federal cabinet deferred the Economic Coordination Committee’s proposal for importing cotton and sugar from India, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said. The foreign minister, in a video message, said after debating the matter, the federal cabinet did not endorse the ECC’s proposal for resuming trade with India and decided to put it off.