MFN status to India: Confusing statements by Pak

Islamabad: Hours after announcing that it would grant the much-delayed MFN status to India, Pakistan government issued several confusing statements which made no direct mention of the significant step aimed at boosting bilateral trade.

Though Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said at a crowded news conference on Wednesday that the federal Cabinet had unanimously approved a proposal to give India the Most Favoured Nation status, statements issued by the government also on the same 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 Minister. 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 on late Wednesday 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.