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Pakistan PM takes U-turn on MFN

Backtracking on granting most favoured nation (MFN) status to India, Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday said the commerce ministry has only been tasked by the cabinet to move forward on the subject of bilateral trade negotiations.

world Updated: Nov 06, 2011 01:13 IST

Backtracking on granting most favoured nation (MFN) status to India, Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday said the commerce ministry has only been tasked by the cabinet to move forward on the subject of bilateral trade negotiations.

His statement came three days after Pakistan information minister Firdous Awan announced that it has been decided “unanimously” to grant MFN status to India. Pakistan has been dilly-dallying on this since 1996, when India granted it MFN status.

Right-wing extremists in Pakistan and business lobbies in the crucial Punjab province are vehemently opposed to this.

“The cabinet has only given its approval in principle to move forward on the issue (of MFN) and permitted the ministry of commerce, which is actively engaged in trade talks with New Delhi, to negotiate with it trade-related issues,” Gilani said.

“We will give it the go-ahead if the situation is favourable and in national interest. Otherwise, proceedings will be withheld.”

He added, “We should do trade and talks with them (India)... All our core issues, including Kashmir, we will have talks with them.”

In New Delhi, playing down the confusing signals, foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said, “According to information from the Pakistan government, the cabinet approved the process of normalisation of trade relations, of which MFN is a part. Actual implementation would be a culmination of the normalisation process, which could take time.”