The Standing Committee on Kashmir of the National Assembly, meeting under the chairmanship of Maulana Fazlur Rehman at Islamabad on Tuesday, took stock of the overall policy of the government on the core issue and showed serious concern about some of its trends. The focus of its criticism was the decision to grant India the Most Favoured Nation status, without New Delhi budging an inch from its intransigent stand on Kashmir. Maulana Fazl, talking to the media after the meeting held at the Parliament House, said that the committee expressed strong reservations about the MFN issue and urged the authorities not to go ahead with its plan in this regard unless the whole gamut of repercussions on trade and the economy in general as well as the Kashmir dispute has been assessed. And for that, it demanded the convening of a joint session of Parliament. The parliamentarians should also be tasked to frame a national Kashmir policy.
That the grant of MFN status would critically influence the fate of the people of Kashmir is as clear as daylight. MFN has been India’s long-standing demand and holds a key position in its quest for the normalisation of relations between the two countries. Pakistan ought to have put its foot down and, before ceding ground on this issue, demanded a matching quid pro quo, such as for instance, New Delhi’s explicit recognition that Kashmir is a disputed state whose solution will be decided in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions. It is also difficult to comprehend how our leadership could remain deaf to the outcry of industrialists and, of course, agriculturists that with the dismal state of the country’s economy, products from across the border would flood our market, dealing it a virtual death blow. Though there are other factors that have wrecked our economy, the stealth of Pakistan’s share of water by India in the upper reaches of rivers flowing from Kashmir has made no mean contribution to its ruin. Against that background and without a change of heart on the part of India, accepting its cherished demand is an unforgivable blunder.
The Kashmir committee also debated two other very valid points: our inaction is putting the Kashmir issue on the UN’s agenda; and the need to observe the Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5 in a befitting manner. The committee decided to call representatives of the defence, foreign, interior, commerce and water and power ministries to its next session to discuss the various issues involved, MFN, not raising the dispute at the UN and the diversion of water by India. It would, indeed, be a suitable forum to examine the entire issue of Kashmir and formulate a national Kashmir policy. Suitable observance of the Kashmir Solidarity Day would also send a message to the world as well as the Kashmiris that Islamabad has not given up the disputed state as lost, but it remains firmly committed to its resolution that responds to the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.
-Jan 10, 2013