The Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, called an all-parties meeting on Monday, October 3, in a timely effort to gain cross-party unity at a time of national crisis. We support his move at the same time as wondering why parliament and a public debate were not more appropriate — but perhaps there were national security issues that could not be discussed in the public domain. No matter, political hostilities were suspended for the duration and parties that have sought the downfall of the PML-N government sat with it at the table as is right and proper at a time such as this. The meeting was convened to formulate a unanimous response to Indian actions in Occupied Kashmir and the ongoing and escalating tensions along the Line of Control (LoC).
The joint statement issued at the end was notable for the strength of its language, blunt and unequivocal, and its 19 points ranged the entire spectrum of Indo-Pakistan relations. It was jointly owned across the political spectrum, a signal that there was a willingness to espouse unity in the national interest.
Some points stand out — collective condemnation of Indian action over all aspects of the Kashmir issue, the Indian ‘scuttling’ of Saarc (a move it has long wanted to make), the threats to deploy the ‘water weapon’, a nod to the international community as to Indian action — perhaps a recognition that events of recent weeks have produced little more than a ringing silence internationally. The reconstitution of the National Security Committee of parliament in a coordinating role ought also to be warmly welcomed.
It is now for the diplomatic cohort to raise their game, for Pakistan to deploy its considerable resources and to begin to turn threat into opportunity. There were wise heads around the table, not all of them from the PML-N and if the PM really wants to capitalise on the event he will do well to utilise them, whatever their affiliation. At bottom, there was measured restraint, no sabres rattled or threats uttered and this is as it should be, because there really is strength in unity.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2016.