Federal Cabinet rejects proposal for trade with India

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet has shot down the proposal to resume trade with neighbouring India until Kashmir’s special status is restored.

The Federal Cabinet meeting was held under the chair of Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on Thursday.

The prime minister attended the meeting via videolink from his residence in Bani Gala, where he was self-quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19 on March 20.

After the meeting, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said until New Delhi scrapped Article 370 in Occupied Kashmir there would be no import of cotton and sugar from India. Sheikh Rashid said India is committing human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir.

On Wednesday, newly-installed Federal Finance Minister Hammad Azhar had announced that the country will allow limited imports of sugar, cotton, and wheat from India in a bid to rein in rampant inflation.

Hammad said permits would be granted for the import of half a million tons of sugar — a move expected to slash the price of the commodity by up to 20 percent ahead of the forthcoming fasting month of Ramazan, when consumption soars.

Three million tons of wheat would also be allowed to be brought in, as well as unspecified quantities of cotton and yarn. Islamabad suspended trade and diplomatic ties with India in 2019 after New Delhi revoked the special status of the part of Occupied Kashmir. Both countries withdrew their top diplomats, and consular staff were expelled or withdrawn.

There has been a frosty stand-off since, but signs of rapprochement recently have included Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan exchanging letters, as well as a resumption of talks last week on the use of resources from their shared Indus River. Bloomberg reported last week that the United Arab Emirates had brokered secret back-channel talks between the two South Asian nations.

Asked at a press conference Wednesday why the trade was resuming despite there being no change in New Delhi’s position on Kashmir, Hammad Azhar said the government had to make decisions “in the interest of the people”.

Broadsheet issue

The Federal Cabinet after having detailed discussion on the Broadsheet issue has granted approval to making the commission’s report public.

Surging Covid cases

The cabinet meeting also pondered upon the rising cases of the Covid-19 in Pakistan amid raging third wave. Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Cabinet expressed serious concern over the rising number of infections in the country.

The prime minister directed the concerned ministries to tighten the implementation of the coronavirus guidelines throughout the country. “Run a countrywide campaign about wearing facemasks,” he added.

Imran Khan reaffirmed that the government’s smart lockdown policy was a success as Pakistan could not bear the brunt of the complete lockdown.

The prime minister appealed to the public to strictly follow the coronavirus guidelines.