MFN: Should Parliament call the shots?

Brig Farooq Hameed Khan(Retd)

A flurry of contradictory statements and interpretations emanating from various government quarters added to the confusion surrounding the cabinet meeting’s decision on the MFN issue. The Information Minister, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan had clearly announced the cabinet’s unanimous decision to grant India the MFN status to improve trade relations between the two countries.

But rising domestic opposition from certain business and political quarters, forced the Prime Minister to adopt a defensive stance later on, as if he was back tracking on the MFN matter . He clarified that the Cabinet had only ‘empowered’ the Commerce Ministry to negotiate the trade modalities with India and the government would go ahead ‘subject’ to a favorable situation in national interest.

While it is undoubtedly the political leadership’s prerogative to decide critical foreign/economic policy issues, yet given the unique history of Indo- Pak relations, the input/advice of the defence establishment in particular is an accepted norm. Were the security setups ( Army/ISI) taken on board before the Cabinet’s MFN decision? The Information Minister had stated that all stakeholders were taken into confidence, including our military and defence institutions.

If this were true, then why the need for that recently held ‘emergent’ meeting between DGISI and military high ups with Foreign Minister Khar at the Foreign Office ? Was the security establishment concerned about the motives behind the MFN decision? Were vital national security interests being ignored or in danger of being compromised?

The prevailing confusion warranted the Foreign Minister’s intervention. . She refuted the impression that Pakistan had backtracked from its MFN position. While she reportedly admitted that the military was a major stakeholder in the context of Indo- Pak relations, she did state that the Army had been consulted before the cabinet’s decision. The Foreign Minister went to the extent to clarify that it was wrong to depict the Army as something different from the Government.

I would agree with the Foreign Minister’s remark that our Army supports the democratic government’s efforts to further the peace process and normalize trade relations with India. It was a positive gesture from General Kayani, when an Indian Army helicopter that recently strayed into Pakistan side in Siachin, was not shot down but allowed to return within twenty four hours.

But like all Pakistanis, the military, too, would want that major Pak- India disputes that are impediments to South Asia’s peace, including Kashmir, water, Siachin and Sir Creek are not put on the back burner .

It is understandable that normalization of bilateral trade ties with India would create a conducive environment for dispute resolution. The ongoing composite dialogue with India, therefore, needs to be speeded up in parallel to make it meaningful and result oriented. FM Hina Khar views Indian support for Pakistan’s non permanent UNSC membership and withdrawal of Indian opposition to Pakistani goods’ access to European markets as tangible outcomes of the Pak- India dialogue process.

Certain confidence building measures from the Indian side would reflect their commitment to creating an environment of mutual trust. After so many negotiation rounds in last few years, why cannot Pakistan and India come to an agreement on easily resolvable issues like Sir Creek and for that matter even Siachin where both armies remain deployed at high altitudes in extreme weather conditions ?

A breakthrough in Pak- India relations is achievable, if on the MFN, the Indians reciprocate by ceasing support for the Baloch insurgency and give up their backing of the Tehreek-e Taliban from Afghanistan.

The MFN decision should not be perceived to be done in haste or under any external pressure. Granted that it is almost fifteen years since Pakistan was accorded MFN status by India, yet all round effects of recognizing India as a MFN on Pakistan’s economy need to be examined in depth and shared with the people.

The US brokered Afghanistan- Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement(APTTA) signed under the watchful eyes of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 19 in Islamabad last year had raised concerns about foreign influences on our decision making. This extraordinary concession paved the way for transportation of Afghan goods and those from central asian republics to India via the Wagha border crossing.

If the US sponsored TAPI( Turkemanistan- Afghanistan –Pakistan – India) gas pipeline project is vital for Pakistan’s energy needs, it is even critical for energy starved India to support its booming economy. Since TAPI would transit through Pakistan, it is another significant gift/concession to India, securing their long awaited energy corridor from resource rich central asia .

Are APTTA, TAPI and MFN part of the US’s geo strategic/ economic grand designs for central/south asia? If Pakistan were to fulfill India’s long cherished dream of a return trade corridor through Wagha and Torkhum to Afghanistan/ central asian states, why not seek a quid pro quo on Kashmir and water issues?

Despite having MFN status , Pakistani goods have not enjoyed Indian market access. Whereas Indian exports to Pakistan amounted to almost 1.6 billion US dollars in 2009-10, Pakistani exports to India were only around 276 million US dollars.

The interests of our Automotive sector in particular that employs 1.4 million workers and constitutes 15% of Pakistan’s large scale industry need to be protected. India produced 2.5 million cars in 2010-11 , compared to Pakistan’s 0.12 million automobiles. Hence the much bigger Indian auto industry should not be allowed to squeeze our relatively smaller auto industrial base.

It is therefore the PPP led Government’s responsibility to extract favorable terms for Pakistani businessmen , traders and manufacturers in negotiations with Indian counterparts in terms of removal of non tariff and other discriminatory trade barriers and fair market access to promote healthy and competitive bilateral trade in which the balance is evenly tipped.

What is required on the MFN, is a ‘whole of government’ approach with all concerned Ministries including Defence, on the same page. More important is to build consensus amongst political parties, Chambers of Commerce, manufacturers and traders . Let our parliament then call the final shots !

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  • S U Turkman  On November 11, 2011 at 1:57 am

    This article sounds like a joke to me, when ‘Most Favored Nation’ in trade has been given to India on the order of GHQ and otherwise, there was no such movement for years by Politicians because Military had no wanted to improve relations with India.

    Military has realized its stuck in a rock and hard place because its relations with USA have been damaged by its own decade long moronic JehaaDi policy and China has refused to back it in its illegal adventures in India and Afghanistan. Its scared, India may take advantage of this situation and attack. Its scared that USA, who had saved Pakistan in 1965, 1998, 2002 and West Pakistan in 1971 may not come to help this time. This is why it had rushed a Female Foreign Minister to India and have now agreed to normalize relations with India, “MerTaa kiyaa naa kertaa Majboor”,

    Military believes such temporary steps would fail USA’s plan of dis-integrating Pakistan, though USA never had such a plan and USA’s gestures towards India had nothing to do with it. USA is not the Arms Supplier of India, its Russia a member of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China Trade Alliance).

    If Pakistan was so much worried about India, it should have put pressure on China to stop sale of Weapons and co-operation of Russia in building of India’s high speed Missiles and Satellite Manufacturing Technology. The Problem there was China had no influence over Russia and its China that wants Russia to help her advance her Technology also.

    ISI’s great Conspiracy Theories published in Chinese Newspapers repeatedly that USA wants to encircle China and wants India to go to war with China on her behalf have worked only to create hate of USA in Chinese masses. They have miserably failed to convince more knowledgeable and pragmatic Communist Party and top leaders of China.
    This is why China still has normal relations with India and somewhat abnormal relations with Pakistan to save her far western part of its land from Moslim Insurrections caused there by JehaaDi moronic Pakistan Army. Actually, without naming Pakistan, China has blamed those insurrections on ‘foreign interference’ and everybody knows, who is China talking about because Russia, USA and Central Asia countries have good relations with China and none of them support JehaaDis in China or in their own countries.

    Pak Military and Politicians had thought if they break relations with USA and strengthen relations with China, that has the largest Foreign Exchange Reserves of the world, she could replace USA in Charity of Aid and Loans but as soon as those ideas were floated, China shot them down saying, “China would not replace any US Aid or IMF Loans to Pakistan”.
    Facts remain facts and now let Conspiracy Theorists talk as much as they want because they live in a different world, not this 21st Century world of facts.

  • a m malik  On November 11, 2011 at 2:05 am

    The decisions by this highly competent in incompetence government come like a bolt in blue. But the angle is always self perservation . Why did the government not take every one on the same road before making an announcement. Now if the matters do not move then the establishment is the bad guy. So much is at stake for Indian trade with the CAS that the previous government had made our transit facilities conditional to the resolution of Kashmir dispute.
    Why must these bunch of “talangas” always create controversies in every thing called the Pakistan interests?

  • S U Turkman  On November 11, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Oh yeah, yeah, so much is at stake with Indian Trade. The Control of Pak Military over Masses because if there are friendly relations with India, people would say, “Why we need such a huge Military and spending on building Weapons of Destruction?”
    Military Budget would be cut and weaken Military’s hold over Pakistan. If Military Hold over Pakistan got loosened, Punjab’s Hold on Pakistan would get loosened, if Punjab’s Hold on Pakistan got loosened all Jobs of Punjabis in Military, Police, Government, Government Owned Industries and Institutions would got lost. Pakistan would be run by Non Punjabis Traitors of Pakistan and what kind of Pakistan that would be?
    No good relations with India please for the safety and security of Pakistan because we are Pakistan, not Pakistanis…!

  • Faisal Imam  On November 11, 2011 at 3:52 am

    india will never give Pakistan anything substantial.never has,never will. it is a premise which is a given.

    Pakistan is drowning in its self afflicted Afghan War. we are at sea in our policies. we have no competent,dedicated leadership left to rescue us in this crisis. our politics is nothing short of a puppet show.there is no visionary on the horizon who has a solution or ability to get out of this hole.

    we are hanging on to straws.maybe the Chinese ,or somebody do our work for us. we did the same in 1970. we will do it now. but who will dig us out now after the debacle?

  • S U Turkman  On November 11, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Yeah those tens of millions of dollars India has given us for Flood Relief turned out counterfeit. ‘India will never give anything substantial never has, never will’ to us Beggars. Why should we worry about an Export Market of just $ 1.2 trillion to market our products?.
    Purchasing our Products because of Trade Agreement is not Charity and we are looking for Charity only. We are not China, S Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, etc. We should never earn any money from exports. We should just keep on living off Charity of Aid, Loans and Remittances from abroad. Right Mr. Imam?.

    • Laila  On November 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

      Don’t we LOVE this RAW Agent?

      • a m malik  On November 11, 2011 at 10:44 am

        Hello “yeah yeah” – your writing is nothing but a total imagination and a piece of crap.

        Love this CIA and not a RAW but shamless individual?? He has been eating the crumbs of Pakistan and now is more loyal than any urchin in USA – after having married a gori

    • a m malik  On November 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Turkey aka Ghasi ram. Why do u not keep ur dirty nose out of Pakista affairs.
      The worms in your stomache start curling through that u do not wait to keep on passing your wisdom bursts. Why should an MFN status be at all granted to India when we are in a strait jacket. And why should it bother you -!Hari Ram

  • Admiral Sirohey  On November 11, 2011 at 9:13 am

    It is a major issue that needs thorough discussion and all levels. India has been seeking normal trade relations at the expense of other vital issues including Kashmir, Water, Siachin, Sir Creek and many other minor irritants. These must not be set aside. Therefore MFN status should be made conditional to the resolutions of these issues.

    A most important matter that was discussed between PMs Liaqat Ali Khan and Pandit Nehru was security and equal opportunities to the minorities in both countries.The Muslims in India expected a leverage from Pakistan in this connection. We must bring this subject on the table. The situation has been made abundantly clear by the 2010 report prepared by a committee in Indians. They are worst treaded community in India.


    • S U Turkman  On November 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Admiral Sirohi,
      Still not as bad as Non Punjabi Pakistanis and Minorities in Pakistan. A lot less Minorities have been killed in India than Pakistan. Pakistan Military has killed dozens of times more Moslims than India from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. India should ask, when Pakistan is going to stop killing it citizens instead because even now Pakistan is busy killing Balochis, Afghans, PushToons and Mohajirs through its Mercenaries Taliban.
      Would have 2 million Afghans died if Pakistan was not next door to Afghanistan?
      How can Pakistan discuss anything like, what you have suggested, when Pak Military is trying to save its Ass now from possible invasion by India since it has no good relations with USA because of its lying, cheating, blackmailing and back-stabbing?
      Its need of Pak Military to improve relations with India to avoid getting its Ass beat up by India taking advantage of the situation.
      Laila and Malik,
      Facts do not change, doesn’t matter, what you call me. There is ample evidence that Pak Military had never wanted good relations with India. It had torpedoed Nawaz Sharif-Bajpai Negotiations with Kargil Infiltration, Musharraf’s attempt by Indian Parliament Attack and Zardari’s effort by Mumbai Attacks. There was no way it would have permitted Most Favored (Trading) Nation Status to India so suddenly without any long drawn negotiations if it was not so scared of present situation after China’s refusal to help.
      Pak long used China Card got exposed and the world saw it was not a Trump Card that Pakistan had been telling the world for decades. There was no other intelligent choice left for Pak Military but to follow Chinese orders to straighten out relations with India. Ask Pak Military if that’s not the case, why has it ordered Zardari to give India MFN Status …!
      If you think, this has been done without Army’s orders, you must live in Fool’s Paradise because Military would have vetoed this move before it started in this Army Staged Democracy of Pakistan.

  • sana  On November 12, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Pakistanis do not think, talk and write in the manner that is evident from the wild / wonky/ CRAZY comments by AN ‘anonymous’ and ‘suspicious’ person on this esteemed forum that has tradition of debating issues in a healthy and rational manner.

    Is this ‘gentleman’ planted to fulfill a certain anti Pakistan agenda? If he has the courage to prove his credentials can he disclose his true identity , background, country/city of residence and even telephone number. Does this name really exist? Pakistanis cannot be deceived so easily.

    • Ijaz Khan  On November 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

      If you mean TURKMAN- He’s from RAW.
      Ignore the SLIME Sana.

  • Ata  On November 12, 2011 at 8:27 am

    All talks, without any substance. Fooling the people always. True democracy is
    When wrongs removed and rights are placed. The best example is:

  • Tariq Haider  On November 12, 2011 at 8:28 am

    This must be approved by the parliament, i do not trust the chief architect Amin Fahim.


    • sturkman  On November 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      There are too many things need Parliament Approval starting from …
      * … 1994 creation of Taliban and JehaaDi Groups by ISI.
      * … continous Monitory and Military support of Pak Military being provided to all JehaaDi Groups.
      * … invasion of Baluchistan and Army Action.
      * … sheltering of Al Qaeda Leaders by Pak Military.
      * … JehaaDi Training Camps run by Pak Military for recruits arriving from all over the world.

      And the list goes on. .

  • GRK  On November 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

    a very comprehensive and convincing point of view placed by the elite member of our forum. these type of nationalist and committed pakistanis are needed to be part of important decision making at the center. alas our democrats have not learned from their own mistakes.grk

  • Brig Farooq Hameed Khan  On November 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    My sincere thanks to all the Pakistan loving worthy Pakistanis for their valuable comments on the MFN issue. i hope that some odd person with a dubious background will not be able to make any difference.


    We would still respect the collective wisdom and judgement of our parliament members despite their known limitations. Therefore we must let our parliament take the final decision on the MFN.
    regards and thanks

    • sturkman  On November 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm

      That’s right. The Elected leadership has no right to decide anything unless its approved by un-elected Pak Military in Fort of Islam. Its like, Parliament is not under influence of Pak Military and this is not a Military Staged Democracy. The Problem is, Brig. Khan does not think, Govt. of Pakistan has been ordered to grant India MFN Status by Military.
      He would keep thinking, Military was not behind this even, when Parliament approves it. Then, probably he is going to declare Parliament’s that act a Treason thinking, it was done without Military’s approval. .

      • a m malik  On November 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm

        HEY Turkeyn aka Ghasi ram,
        since u r no longer a Pakistani so keep ur nose out of Pakistani affairs. After marrying a local , super complex seems to have over done its trick on u.
        FOR OTHERS. Pl see. Granting MFN to india and then allowing her the cross border facility for a transit to Afghanistan, is -for Inddia- a dream come true!
        am malik

  • sturkman  On November 13, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Suppose MFN was granted by Pakistan without approval of Pak Military and $ 1.2 billion Market of Indian Consumers is not opening up because of it and its just to provide India Transportation Corridor to Afghanistan. If so, why are you worried about it so much?
    Would not your brave saintly Lions, the Taliban be looting and blowing up Indian Trucks just like NATO Supply Convoys?
    You should be glad that India is offering you great new JehaaDi Opportunities.
    Since you keep calling me names in violation of orders of Allah in Qoraan, I guess, you are not a Moslim. What is your religion, sir?

    • a m malik  On November 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm

      My religion sir? It is to expose munafiqs like u. Ghasi Ram still is quite polite than the names u got from a few bloggers on a different sites. Atleast it has the word RAM inside. With such a heavy leanings for US and India u should be happy with the title.
      Let us decide what it matters to open the corridor. India can keep its MFN status, if it must create various other road blocks in the procedural matters that even a needle would get stuck up.
      As for u- do continue serving the FBI and CIA; and now RAW will also consider u a hot candidate. U are in love with all this except the country that fed you to bite her like a snake which is fed on the milk to bite its owner

  • AK  On November 14, 2011 at 11:07 am

    “Despite having MFN status …Pakistani exports to India were only around 276 million US dollars” If we are not producing goods because of energy and related issues, how can we blame India for it?

    I think granting MFN status is a step in the right direction in working towards the objectives of free trade. Moreover it should make our private sector more competitive. I also think MFN status should be discussed within its economic and trade purview and not linked to politics, militancy etc. there are many countries who trade despite their “political tensions”, US and China.

    I think its about time Pakistan as a nation state fully appreciated the global nature of its economic and social reality and determined policies accordingly.

    • S U Turkman  On November 18, 2011 at 1:34 am

      US has Political Tensions with China like Pakistan?
      You must be kidding because most of those factories that have been earning so much Foreign Exchange for China are owned by Americans. How could they USA banned imports from factories of her own Capitalists in China?
      USA is the largest importer of China after Canada and half of factories in Canada that export to USA are also owned by Americans.
      Americans had come to Pakistan before they went to any other country but Pak Bureaucracy and Bribe Extortion told them to stay away. Bribe Extortion and Anti Pak Manufacturing Policy against it was so hurting that Phillips had to close down its TV Assembly Plant in Karachi. China was opened up for them in 1980 and all Chinese admit, they were poverty-stricken people riding Bicycles in 1980’s. Their Per Capita Income was lower than Pakistan’s. Opening up for USA in 1980 has caused China to become 3rd largest Economy of the world behind Japan.
      Country run by Protection Money Collectors and Bribe Extorting people can never advance.

    • a m malik  On November 18, 2011 at 2:26 am

      Had the political objectives not been in view US would not have stubbed us from getting the much needed gas line from Iran. Yes free trade has an advantage – only if industries/economy in operation are more or less in balance.

      • S U Turkman  On November 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

        Pakistan has not run out of Natural Gas so far so, Pakistan has not been stabbed anywhere by USA’s veto on Iranian Gas Pipeline to India. The Idea of Pipeline had come from India because India does not have enough Gas, not from Pakistan. Pakistan had just wanted to stop getting Gas from land of Balochi Tribes so, it can pay for Gas to Iran instead of paying them a little bit money. If Pakistan really needed Gas, it did not have enough money to even build such a Pipeline so, I don’t know, what the hell are you talking about.

        Has USA back-stabbed Pakistan by vetoing Gas Pipeline from Central Asia also, thankless Beggars?.

      • a m malik  On November 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

        Thanks for making us wise u wizard. I said stubbed not stabbed – a quality that is ur prerogative only and surprisingly u r not taking the credit for it. If u know where are the gas deposits- in abundance in Pakistan now – then get in touch with the authorities concerned – u will be more richer – more than what FBI obliges u with .

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