PESHAWAR, Oct 26: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl and Jamaat-i-Islami, the country's two major religio-political parties with common thoughts on most national and international issues, are poles apart over the question of Pakistan giving India the most favoured nation (MFN) status.
JI strongly feels the move will undermine Pakistan's stand on Kashmir dispute, while JUI-F insists better trade can bring the two countries closer and help them make meaningful progress on their prolonged dispute over Himalayas.
The two parties remained part of the ruling coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2002 to 2007.
Of late, foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and commerce minister Amin Fahim hinted at Pakistan extending MFN status to India.
“They (the federal government) are doing it under the US pressure. It'll be India's victory if Pakistan ever grants it MFN status,” Sirajul Haq, markazee naib amir (central vice-president) of JI, told Dawn on Wednesday.
When contacted, Senator Ghulam Ali, of JUI-F, who is also the president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said grant of the MFN status to India would benefit the businessmen belonging to both the religious parties alike, adding that businessmen with political allegiance to Jamaat-i-Islami were part of FPCCI and they, too, were in support of promoting trade with India.
“Our religious parties are not opposed to trade with other countries,” he said but hastened to add that trade should not risk the country's sovereignty and security.
The JUI-F senator said there should be a well-thought-out negative list of goods for trade with India and that barring explosives, weapons and ammunition, all other items should be on the positive list.
Head of JI, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Professor Ibrahim Khan said bilateral trade didn't provide answers to Pakistan's territorial disputes with India and rather, it would weaken the country's stand on Kashmir.
However, Senator Ali rejected the point, saying if diplomacy can't end enmity, then trade should be given a chance to turn yesterday's foes into today's friends.
“If Germany and France, and China and Taiwan can trade, why not Pakistan and India?” he said.
Provincial spokesman for JUI-F Haji Abdul Jalil Jan said his party believed in harmony with all neighbouring countries.
“War doesn't always provide answers to every territorial issue and therefore, we need to pursue a different strategy to solve problems,” he said.
JI leaders, however, said the federal government's possible move would fail to make India a friend as the previous governments, too, had tried to have cordial relations with it through bus diplomacy, cricket diplomacy and cultural exchanges but to no avail.
“None of these peace efforts bore fruit only because India always betrayed Pakistan,” Mr Sirajul Haq said, adding that the move could also anger Kashmiris.
He said the MFN status would help India win international support for becoming UN Security Council's permanent member.
“We don't want war with India and rather, we want resolution of the main issue responsible for enmity between the two countries (Kashmir) before other bilateral moves,” he said.