ISLAMABAD: With the submission of a resolution to the National Assembly secretariat by a key federal minister calling for nomination of Prime Minister Imran Khan for the Nobel Peace Prize for his act of releasing the captive Indian pilot, the supporters and fans of Mr Khan have started lobbying for the move by launching a campaign through social media.

Unimpressed, the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has expressed its surprise over the move, saying that at a time when the country is still in the state of war, the ruling party has become active in campaigning for nomination of the prime minister for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Addressing the joint sitting of the parliament on Thursday, the prime minister had announced that Pakistan as a peace gesture would release Indian Air Force (IAF) officer Wing Commander Abhinandan, who had been captured by Pakistan after his MiG 21 aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force jet. Later, the captive pilot was handed over to the Indian authorities on Friday.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has submitted a resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat calling for Imran Khan to be given the prestigious prize for “his contribution towards peace in the region”.

The resolution says the prime minister had played a sagacious role in reducing recent tension between Pakistan and India which was created due to warmongering attitude of the Indian leadership.

It says that the aggression manifested by the Indian leadership had brought the two nuclear states to the brink of war, endangering lives of tens of millions of people on both sides of the border. However, the situation was averted due to its proactive and deft handling by the prime minister.

“Keeping in view his contribution towards peace in the region, PM Imran Khan may be given Nobel Peace Prize,” concludes the resolution.

Soon after handing over of the IAF pilot to the Indian authorities, the hashtag “#NobelPeacePrizeForImranKhan” started trending in the country on social media website Twitter and about 300,000 people have signed online petitions calling for the award of Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Khan.

Meanwhile, the PPP which had also questioned the timing of the release of the captive Indian pilot, expressed its sorrow over the ongoing campaign seeking Nobel Peace Prize for Mr Khan.

PPP stalwart Syed Khurshid Shah said in a statement that the country was still in the state of war and the information minister had started a campaign for giving Nobel Peace Prize to the prime minister.

“I don’t know why the government ministers are doing this?” he said, adding that this was the time that the whole nation should pray to Allah to bring Pakistan out of the present situation.

Mr Shah said that it was in the interest of the country’s security and sovereignty that the opposition supported the government in the parliament keeping aside all its differences.

He regretted that despite this, the prime minister did not attend the meeting of the parliamentary leaders of all parties which was briefed by Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa on Feb 27.

The PPP leader said the prime minister did not bother to sit with the parliamentary leaders even at this crucial time. But the opposition even did not make the absence of the prime minister from such an important meeting an issue and ignored it for the sake of unity in the country amid the prevailing tense situation.

Mr Shah said that during the joint sitting of the parliament, the opposition parties remained in the forefront with a view to give a message of unity to the world, but the prime minister did not even meet the opposition lawmakers.

“The prime minister for whom you are running a campaign for Nobel Peace Prize did not even say hello to the opposition in the parliament,” he said.

Earlier, the PPP had questioned the ‘haste’ in the decision to release the captured Indian pilot and asked if any terms had been decided behind the scenes for it.

Taking part in the discussion in the Senate on the tension between Pakistan and India on Friday, PPP parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman said that it had to be seen what message was coming from the other side. “Has India agreed to hold talks?” she asked.

Ms Rehman said she was not opposed to the release of the Indian pilot, but sought to know what Pakistan had asked for in return. She said that social media suggested they (India) had given no quarter. “If we have not asked for anything, it is an immature diplomatic move,” she said.

She pointed out that India had violated Pakistan’s airspace twice and as such it was an aggressor. She said that Indian response to the release of the pilot was inappropriate.

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not attending repeated telephone calls of PM Imran Khan,” she said, asking how the decision to release the pilot had been taken overnight. “And what India gave in response to that gesture…India should at least give a response to the PM’s calls.”

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2019