The Kashmir issue and heightened tensions with India helped bring together Pakistan’s usually divided political leadership to offer support to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s efforts to tackle the situation, the Pakistani media reported on Tuesday.
A meeting of all parties, convened on Monday by Sharif, warned that any unilateral revocation of the Indus Waters Treaty would amount to “an act of aggression” even as it played down the Indian Army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control as a “ludicrous” claim.
“United we stand for Kashmir cause” was the headline on the front page of The Express Tribune while the Dawn headlined its report “Opposition, govt in unison over Indian excesses in Valley”.
“The country’s political leadership unanimously condemned Indian aggression on the Line of Control (LoC) and called for giving the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination,” the Dawn reported. The Tribune described the coming together of all but three of Pakistan’s political parties as a “show of national unity”.
The Karachi edition of the Urdu Daily Jang, the largest circulated edition of any newspaper in Pakistan, reported on the restoration of the parliamentary committee on national security as an outcome of the meeting of political leaders. The Lahore edition of the Jang instead led with a report attack on an Indian Army camp at Baramulla.
Media reports quoted Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as saying that there was no military solution to the Kashmir issue and this position, first enunciated by his mother Benazir Bhutto, had been accepted by all political parties.
Bilawal pledged support to Sharif on the Kashmir issue and tensions with India but was critical of the premier for his failure to probe revelations in the Panama Papers leaks that Sharif’s three children owned offshore assets worth millions of dollars. The Dawn reported that Bilawal asked Sharif to accept the opposition’s demand to form a Panama Papers Inquiry Commission to rid the country of corruption.
The Tribune reported that Monday’s meeting of the political parties was a success because the government mustered support even from its foes for dealing with India but Sharif “had to answer some bitter questions” from the opposition. Though Sharif personally received the opposition leaders, Bilawal questioned the government’s “disastrous” foreign policy, it said.
Bilawal reportedly said his grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto “retrieved Pakistan’s land from Indian occupation and secured the release of thousands of prisoners of wars…in 1971 through assertive diplomacy and aggressive foreign policy”. He added, “This is how we can achieve our diplomatic goals.”
An editorial titled “A time for solidarity” in the Tribune said: “It is time for the diplomatic cohort to raise their game, for Pakistan to deploy its considerable resources and to begin to turn threat into opportunity.”
The Tribune and The News also reported on contacts between Pakistan’s National Security Advisor Nasser Janjua and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval to reduce tensions. The Tribune quoted its sources as saying that the NSAs had spoken twice since the weekend. “The contact…was aimed at defusing the current standoff that virtually brought the two hostile neighbours to the brink of war,” it reported.
Janjua reportedly told Doval that Pakistan “sought de-escalation of tensions” but “would hit back hard if the neighbouring country attempted any military misadventure”, the Tribune quoted an official as saying. Foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz confirmed the contacts and said the two officials had agreed on the need to defuse tensions.
“Pakistan wants to reduce tensions at the LoC and focus on Kashmir,” Aziz told The News.
The most shared story on the website of the Dawn, however, was one that said Pakistan’s largest stock exchange had soared 41,000 points in Monday’s trading. The report said traders shrugged off the war clouds hanging over the region as the KSE-100 index crossed the historic threshold of 41,000 points, staying above this level for at least two hours before closing just below at 40,986 points.
Market participants said investors fell over one another in accumulating shares in several sectors, including cement, banking and fertilisers. There was also news of buying by foreign investors, particularly from China.
On most TV news channels, apart from reports on the meeting of political leaders, there was a lot of discussion and reporting on Imran Khan’s absence at Monday’s conclave. Local media reported Khan had preferred to spend leisure time in the popular holiday resort of Nathia Gali while the rest of the political leadership showed national unity on the Kashmir issue. This caused many to attack and criticise Khan.
The media also reported that Prime Minister Sharif would chair two key meetings on Tuesday to review national security and the tensions with India. The chief ministers of the four provinces have been invited to the first meet, which will discuss the National Action Plan, which was framed to counter terrorism after the Taliban massacred dozens of children at a school in Peshawar in 2014.
This will be followed by a meeting of the National Security Committee that will be attended by army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, the chiefs of the navy and air force, the heads of the ISI and Intelligence Bureau, the NSA and defence minister Khawaja Asif.
Ahead of the meetings, the army chief reviewed the operational preparedness during a visit to the headquarters of the 1 Corps or the strike corps at Mangla. Lt Gen (retired) Ghulam Mustafa, who once commanded the strike corps, described the army chief’s visit as “highly significant”.
“Normally, such meetings take place at the General Headquarters and are not announced. This was a clear message to India, and the presence of other corps commanders during the preparedness-level review is also noteworthy,” he told the Dawn.