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Words of caution, advice in Pak media as ties with India take a hit

The latest developments in the India-Pakistan standoff jostled for space with reports of politician-turned-cricketer Imran Khan’s surprise decision to boycott a crucial session of Parliament on the front pages of Pakistani newspapers on Wednesday.

India's Pakistan offensive Updated: Oct 05, 2016 15:17 IST
A Pakistan army soldier stands guard at hilltop post at a forward area on the LOC, in Tatta Pani, some 199 kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan.
A Pakistan army soldier stands guard at hilltop post at a forward area on the LOC, in Tatta Pani, some 199 kilometers from Islamabad, Pakistan.(AP Photo)

The latest developments in the India-Pakistan standoff jostled for space with reports of politician-turned-cricketer Imran Khan’s surprise decision to boycott a crucial session of Parliament on the front pages of Pakistani newspapers on Wednesday.

Most dailies reportedly extensively on two back-to-back meetings, including one of the National Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday to review the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and the preparedness of the armed forces.

The Express Tribune reported on its front page that the tensions with India could force Pakistan to relocate troops moved to its western border with Afghanistan after a ceasefire was put in place along the LoC and international border in late 2003. The troops were deployed in the west to deal with militants fleeing Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Army announced in April that it had established the writ of the state in the lawless tribal areas, but the “job is not done yet”, the report said. It added that “Pakistan now may rethink its strategy and priorities in the wake of increasing hostilities from India”.

The report noted a statement issued after Tuesday’s meeting of the National Security Committee had said that the “escalation on LoC and eastern borders will shift Pakistan’s focus away from its efforts to eliminate terrorism”. The Tribune quoted sources as saying that meeting had decided to inform the US that it would be left with no option but to pull out troops from the border with Afghanistan.

Read| Why the opposition is wrong in demanding proof of surgical strikes

The News, in a report on front page, noted that the opposition Congress party had sought evidence from the government to call Pakistan’s bluff regarding last week’s surgical strikes against terrorists across the LoC.

A report headlined “‘Fake strikes’ trigger slugfest in India” in the Tribune contended that some Indian politicians felt they had been “hoodwinked” by the military. It added that “opposition parties believe the covert strikes and war hysteria was a ruse of the Modi government to gain political mileage ahead of key polls in Uttar Pradesh”.

An editorial titled “Bilateral dialogue – an option” in the Tribune said the current India-Pakistan flare-up was following a pattern in which the people of Kashmir would be forgotten. “Their freedom struggle once again becomes a footnote in our history books while months or years elapse before Pakistan and India again reach the point where bilateral dialogue becomes a viable option,” it said.

“There is now an immediate need for both countries to adopt a pragmatic approach and recognise the importance of de-escalating tensions before any more damage is inflicted on the people caught up in this conflict,” the editorial added.

Read| Battle of the armies: How India and Pakistan fare against each other in numbers

A complaint against actor Om Puri for reportedly making critical remarks about the Indian Army was also a popular story in the Pakistani media on Wednesday. TV channels highlighted the issue and a number of Pakistani actors gave their opinions on the matter. Many of them described it as proof of the “narrow-mindedness” of Indian society. Popular TV host Farrukh Pitafi of PTV World said the incident was “unfortunate and two-faced”.

Social media was abuzz with Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s touching response to a Pakistani girl who was on a visit to India and worried about the heightened tensions between the two countries. A touching Twitter exchange between Aliya Harir and Swaraj went viral in Pakistan.

Harir reached out to Swaraj to ensure her delegation’s safe return to Pakistan after attending the Global Youth Peace Festival in Chandigarh. After a reassuring response from Swaraj, she tweeted, “Extremely overwhelmed. Spoke to @SushmaSwaraj ji who assured that Pakistani delegation of #GYPF2016 will reach Pakistan back safe.”

Most of the dailies devoted a lot of space on their front pages to Imran Khan’s decision to boycott a crucial sitting of the National Assembly and Senate convened by the government to discuss the tensions with India and the situation in Kashmir. “Opposition stunned as Imran announced parliament boycott,” was the headline in the Dawn while the Tribune reported that Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party had sprung a surpise by boycotting the session on Wednesday.

Reports quoted Khan as saying that his party’s MPs will not attend any session of Parliament until Prime Minister Sharif resigns or presents himself for accountability regarding revelations in the Panama Papers leaks that his three children owned offshore assets worth millions of dollars. Attending the joint session would imply that he endorses Sharif as the premier, Khan said.

Other opposition leaders criticised Khan for resorting to such a step at a time when Pakistan was facing “aggressive Indian designs”. A meeting of all political parties chaired by Sharif on Monday had agreed to forge a united front in the face of the tensions with India.

The TV channels too reported on Khan’s move to boycott the parliamentary session, with information minister Pervaiz Rashid quoted by Dunya News channels as saying that the decision reflected Khan’s “mental bankruptcy”.

For complete coverage on India’s Pakistan offensive, click here