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Parliamentary team leaves for New Delhi

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD, Aug 22: A parliamentary delegation comprising the country’s key political parties crossed the Wagah border on Wednesday into India to participate in the fourth round of Pakistan-India Parliamentarians Dialogue starting in New Delhi on Thursday.

The discourse will review progress achieved by official-level talks during the last two years and recommend measures like changes in the visa regime, said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, executive director of the Pakistan Institute for Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), the NGO which is facilitating the event.

A team of the Saarc Chamber of Commerce led by Iftikhar Malik, which will host a dinner gathering for the 28-member delegation in New Delhi, also left for India.

Headed by Senate’s Deputy Chairman Sabir Ali Baloch, the delegation includes Leader of House in the Senate Jahangir Badar, chairperson of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Climate Change Dr Saeeda Iqbal, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Nadeem Afzal Gondal, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Haji Muhammad Adeel of the ANP, Syed Tayyab Hussain of the MQM, Mir Amer Ali Khan Magsi, Mian Abdus Sattar and Dr Nafisa Shah of the PPP, and Zahid Hamid, Anusha Rehman and Khurram Dastgir Khan of the PML-N and Ahmed Bilal Mehboob.

Talking to reporters before going across the border, Mr Badar said the delegation would try to support and speed up the dialogue being held at the official level between the two countries.

He was optimistic that talks between parliamentarians of the two countries would become a launching pad for converting the region into a South Asian world on the lines of Euro world (European Union).

He said that on the agenda of the discourse was the review of the official dialogue, trade, education, health and local government and expressed the hope that the two sides would be able to benefit from each other’s experiences in these fields.

Haji Adeel said that building bridges between the two countries would take some time.

Answering a question about the utility of dialogue when incidents of `friendly fire’ were continuing, he said all controversial issues, including Kashmir, water and Siachen, would be resolved when visa regime between Islamabad and New Delhi would be dissolved and there would be strong people-to-people contacts.

The ANP leader said he was carrying an invitation from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti for his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar.

The delegation will visit Patna, Bihar, on Saturday on the invitation of Mr Kumar.

MNA Khurram Dastgir said he was also carrying an official invitation from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for Mr Kumar.

He said the dialogue did not mean that they had forgotten the Kashmir issue. “We’ll make them realise that just trade is not enough. We’ll make it clear that progress in trade needs resolution of political issues like water, Kashmir, etc.,” he said.

Mr Dastgir emphasised that “we will be representing people and not foreign ministries of our respective countries”.

At a time when relations between Islamabad and New Delhi were at the lowest ebb after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the ice melt in the form of first dialogue held in Islamabad in January 2011 although only eight Indian MPs came against the expected 15.

Mr Mehboob says the first target of the series of dialogue is to strive for restoring the pre-Mumbai attack relations. Claiming that 80 per cent of the recommendations made in the third round of dialogue had been made part of the joint trade policy signed by the two countries, he expressed the hope that recommendations of the fourth dialogue would also be taken up seriously.

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