Tuesday April 16, 2024

Govt U-turn on India import policy

By Mumtaz Alvi
April 02, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet Thursday 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 the Kashmir issue solution.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said this while addressing a press conference here after attending the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan through the video link.

The minister emphasized that trade with India would not be at the cost of Kashmir.

“We want trade, but India should first go to the 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 made headlines that the government had decided to resume trade with India in the context of textile sector and sugar, but this was just a recommendation of the ECC while the ultimate decision was to be taken by the federal cabinet.

He emphasized 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 with best wishes and referred to better Pak-India relations, which indeed was a good thing.

The minister said Imran told Modi if he wanted peace, then India should first revert to August 5 position so that they could move towards settlement of Kashmir issue, which would open new avenues of cooperation.

“This is not possible that the Muslims are treated as second rated citizens and massacred while Kashmiris are denied their right and Pakistan and India even then live happily. The government and prime minister’s stated position is that the key to peace in South Asia lies in solution to the Kashmir problem,” he contended.

Replying to a question, the minister asserted that none could dare compromise on Kashmir with India, particularly during the PTI government.

He said the cabinet had approved issuance of health cards in Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad and fixed new prices for 43 medicines but no increase in the price of any medicine was made, as provision of free health services to people was the major concern of prime minister.

He said it had also been decided to improve the performance of bureaucracy.

He said the process for expelling incompetent bureaucrats had been made easier and the prime minister had issued orders for looking into their respective departments and the officers showing no interest in work so that the process of relieving them could be started.

The minister 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 for forensic audit. Now three major actions i.e. administrative, criminal and legal actions are allowed,” Fawad said.

He said in terms of administration, the officers of Directorate General of 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 steps taken by EVM and asked for making overseas Pakistanis a part of the poll process.

He said they would try to use EVM in a portion of upcoming AJK elections and propose it to the relevant Kashmir authorities.

Fawad said he was happy that the speaker and the opposition had met 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 consensus and work out a system of elections so that everyone accepts the poll results,” he said.

Meanwhile, according to APP, the federal cabinet Thursday deferred the Economic Coordination Committee’s proposal for import of 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 import of cotton and sugar from India and decided to put it off.