Pak leader moots common currency for Ind-Pak

Lahore: Over 1,200 items on the negative list regime for trade with India will be withdrawn in December and the time has come for the two countries to think of introducing a common currency to boost trade, ruling Pakistan People's Party leader Jehangir Badr has said.

"Precisely 1,209 items on the negative list of trade with India will be withdrawn by December," Badr said while addressing a Pakistan-India Media Conference at the Lahore Press Club on Friday. The time has come for Pakistan and India to think of introducing a common currency for countering the pressure of the US dollar, British pound and Euro and to boost bilateral trade, he said.

Around 40 Indian journalists, who are in Pakistan for a three-day visit, attended the conference jointly arranged by the Lahore Press Club, Chandigarh Press Club and the Press Club of India in New Delhi. Badr, who is part of a parliamentary-level peace dialogue between the two countries, mentioned how the PPP and its governments had been trying to improve relations with India.

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who also addressed the gathering, said peace between India and Pakistan is very important and both countries were actively engaged at different levels in this regard. Kaira said:"There have been positive developments in the past too but misunderstandings on some occasions nullified all efforts. Both countries have learnt a lot from past derailments of the peace process.

"And the beauty of the current efforts is the resolve that no incident will be allowed to stall the dialogue for peace. They do realise that war only creates problems," he said. Kaira said the time had come for both countries to open their borders for trade as was done by the European Union for its member nations.

"At one time, their economies were operating within their borders. But now they can interact while maintaining their borders," he said, referring to the European example.

He cited how the world community had created a "monster" by backing mujahideen in Pakistan to counter the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and left the region without handling the fallout. The "monster" later started eating up the fabric of Pakistan, which had a tolerant society, he said.

"And we are now single-handedly fighting terrorism with our meagre resources, sacrificing precious lives and our economy in the process," he said. Kaira claimed India too had extremist elements but both countries would have to move forward and take decisions for the betterment of their people without caring for such opponents of peace.

Urging journalists in both countries to work for peace, he claimed a breakthrough achieved in a meeting between the premiers of the two sides in Egypt was opposed by the Indian media. "Our media would have acted in the same manner if concessions were granted by our Prime Minister," he said.

Kaira called for Pakistani films and TV channels to be allowed into India and for Pakistani media organisations to post their correspondents there. "We are already allowing this and India must reciprocate as this will further improve relations between the two countries," he said.

He also called for exchange of visits by youths, students and women besides permit-based permission to the elderly to visit their ancestral places and holding of sports events. Lahore Press Club president Arshad Ansari, Press Club of India secretary general Anil Anand and Chandigarh Press Club president Sukhbir Singh Bajwa also spoke on the occasion.