Pakistan on Friday clarified that there was no backtracking on granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India. This clarification came in the wake of confusion generated in the media over the Cabinet decision taken on Wednesday.
The confusion stemmed primarily from the "history of rollback of India-specific decisions’’ and absence of specific mention to MFN in the Cabinet meeting statement released to the media. Two statements on the meeting posted on the Press Information Department’s (PID) website made no mention of MFN status while stating that ministers were apprised about steps being taken for normalization of trade with India and bring it in line with Pakistan’s international obligations.
However, a statement posted on the Commerce Ministry’s website said: "The Cabinet fully endorsed the efforts of Ministry of Commerce to complete normalization of trade relations and directed to implement in letter and spirit the decisions taken in this regard. The Cabinet gave Ministry of Commerce the mandate to take the process of normalization forward, which would culminate in the observance of MFN principle in its true spirit”.
The different versions of the meeting in these three statements were interpreted by a section of the Pakistani media as ``confusion over MFN status to India’’ and this story was picked up by the Indian media; resulting in today’s clarification by Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua. Two federal ministers – Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar – also spoke out in support of MFN status to India.
Through Thursday evening, Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood appeared on various Pakistani television channels to clarify that the Cabinet had given the Ministry the mandate to completely normalize trade relations with India and MFN status was a part of that process.
Mr. Mahmood also sought to address various misgivings being aired in Pakistan about the move; particularly its impact on Pakistan’s position on Kashmir and the possibility of India benefitting more from bilateral trade. The misgivings persist despite Information Minister Firdous Ashaq Awan stating that all stakeholders including the Army had been taken on board while taking the decision.
In a related development, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar held a consultation with all stakeholders on foreign policy issues including the resumed dialogue process with India. The consultation comes ahead of a possible meeting of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in Maldives on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit this month.