Parliamentarians from Pakistan and India met here for the second round of their dialogue under the veil of secrecy and far away from the prying eyes of the media.
However, a chance encounter with the MPs made one wonder why it had all been kept so hush-hush. The MPs spoke from the heart, movingly sometimes. Ultimately, they endorsed the national positions of their countries, with heavy emphasis on easier people-to-people interaction.
Pakistani MPs spoke of resolving ancient disputes between the two countries so that relations could become normal. Some MPs cautioned against talking down to Pakistan – as it hurt feelings in the country and was seen as an impediment to normalising relations. The Indian side was emotional. MPs spoke of divided families and the hunger to meet. They also said Indian Muslims had undergone many travails as a minority and had been victims – but the Indian state had protected their rights and was trying to stem attacks on them from radical groups.
Business trade and the economy came in for some discussion. It was pointed out that because the two countries had no banking facilities in each others’ countries, they lost money routinely via third country transactions. Business visas often run into red tape and are usually rejected. Ordinary people have found it difficult to secure visas.
Joint statement issued
A joint statement issued after the dialogue said it was in the interest of both countries that peace, security and stability be established between them. The statement noted that the foreign ministers of both countries had agreed that the dialogue should be “un-interrupted and un-interruptible”. The specific issues that were flagged were that the composite dialogue should go on; all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek should be discussed, and the Pakistani concern of water flow during the sowing season be addressed along with timely sharing of information on the Indus Basin.
The parliamentarians urged both governments to “address the water issue within the framework of the Indus Waters Treaty, discuss between themselves the 1960 Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, and the easing or removal of restrictions and considerations of a preferential duty regime”.
The dialogue had a great deal to say about changes in the visa regimes in both countries. Among the issues flagged was the implementation of agreements to open new transit routes across the Line of Control in Kashmir and at Khokhrapar-Monabao, as also additional flights. The MPs will send their recommendations to the presiding officers of their respective parliaments.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.department is working with a depleted force.
Despite the passage of almost two months, tax authorities have failed to set a new collection target since the target approved by parliament became redundant after the tax figure fudging controversy.
A recent proposal to fill strategic positions in the FBR is also awaiting the chairman’s approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.