A day after granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, the Pakistan government on Thursday appeared to be playing to the gallery by being ambiguous on the issue.

The Foreign Office in Islamabad said the Cabinet had cleared a move for normalisation of bilateral trade relations that will “culminate” with MFN.

India had granted Pakistan MFN status way back in 1996 but Islamabad had so far held out on reciprocating due to opposition from some trade lobbies and religious and hardline political parties which contended that such a move would harm the country’s stand on the Kashmir issue.

At the weekly news conference, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua gave the government’s position when she was asked about the confusion surrounding the move to grant India MFN status.

“The Cabinet fully endorsed the efforts of the Ministry of Commerce for complete normalisation of trade relations (with India) and directed to implement in letter and spirit the decisions taken in this regard,” she said.

The Cabinet gave the Commerce Ministry the “mandate to take the process of normalisation forward, which would culminate in the observance of Most Favoured Nation principle in its true spirit”, Ms. Janjua said, reading from a statement issued by the Commerce Ministry.

Hours before today’s news briefing at the Foreign Office, the Commerce Ministry’s statement was removed from the Press Information Department’s website.

When this was pointed out to Ms. Janjua by reporters, she insisted that the statement reflected the government’s stance.

Pakistan Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan yesterday announced that the federal Cabinet had unanimously approved a proposal to give India MFN status.

Two other statements on the Press Information Department’s website, however, merely said the Cabinet had cleared a proposal for “normalisation of trade relations” with India.

These statements were in marked contrast to Mr. Awan’s announcement.

Significantly, Mr. Awan had announced that all stakeholders, including the powerful military, were “on board” for the move to give India MFN status.