• Sunday, December 21, 2014

Freedom in the air

Many Pakistanis hopeful for peace with India

Afp, Islamabad

Pakistanis yesterday voiced hope that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to India for Narendra Modi's inauguration will lead to better ties between the two countries, despite concern over the Hindu hardliner's past.
Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart to yesterday's ceremony in a bold initiative aimed at mending strained ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Sharif said the trip was a "great opportunity" to strengthen ties, and in Pakistan's major cities, many traders, shoppers and others shared his optimism, though some expressed concern over Modi's past record.
The 63-year-old Modi was chief minister of Gujarat state during 2002 communal riots in 2002 in which 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslim.
Nisar Ahmed, a 48-year-old fabric worker in Islamabad, said: "It is good for the people of Pakistan and India to have peace, because our culture is the same."
Others said they were hopeful that good ties with India could prove a boon to Pakistan's own, much smaller economy.
Trade between the two countries is presently around $2.5 billion, with Indian exports accounting for $1.75 billion, according to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


"Pakistan will get billions of dollars in benefit if it grants MFN(Most Favoured Nation) status to India... It would also do away with many non-tariff barriers making Pakistani goods accessible to India," said Amin Hashwani, a Karachi-based businessman.
Sharif, a pro-business industrialist, is widely seen as being in favour of such a move.
Amel Irfan, a recent graduate from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore, said closer ties went beyond economics and it was time for Pakistan to re-evaluate its biggest threats, given its long struggle against homegrown Islamist insurgents.
"It is also important for Pakistan to ensure that it makes peace with its neighbours because of the internal threat of terrorism it faces," she said.
In the disputed territory of Kashmir, which the countries have fought two wars over, there was little hope of a breakthrough.
"Modi has announced an increase in the defence budget after winning elections which is an alarming signal for the region," said Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, former prime minister of Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu Kashmir.
Abdul Aziz Alvi, chief of the Kashmir chapter of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa militant group, said armed struggle would continue.
"The meeting will have no impact on the issue of Kashmir, let them talk but the solution is only with Jihad."

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Last modified: 2:53 am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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