Let’s not take two steps back
Any enlightened person would welcome the decision to accord India the normal status of the most favoured nation. Many would agree with Foreign Minister Khar that the decision was not easy to take and the elected government needs to be given credit for it. Enhancing the number of items that can be imported from India from 1,946 to almost 5,600 in one stroke is by no means an ordinary move.
What must not be lost sight of are the problems that remain to be resolved to develop the confidence of the local business community. Among these is the issue of NTBs that stand in the way of the export of some of the major items from Pakistan. The bilateral trade is expected to make goods cheaper and create more jobs thus reducing some of the burdens on the common man. If all goes well at a meeting of the home/interior secretaries of the two countries next month, the neighbours would sign a liberalised visa agreement making people-to-people contact easier. All these developments would contribute to the creation of strong lobbies in both countries supportive of a peaceful and early resolution of their long-standing disputes.
The road to good relations however still remains littered with booby traps. The claim by Khar that the military’s grip on foreign policy had loosened would be tested in days to come. The ghost of anti-India extremism struts the centre stage in the form of the self-styled Difa-e-Pakistan Council. A couple of months back, the Council announced that it would defy the Parliament if it accorded MFN status to India.
Politicians cannot reclaim their lost turf through statements alone. For this, they need to put their house in order by controlling corruption, improving efficiency, setting the national economy on an even keel and thus winning over the confidence of the masses. This needs to be reflected in better voter turnout than a meagre 44.1 per cent as in 2008. Winning a seat on the basis of 11 percent of the total votes may make one a federal minister but would not provide such a lot the clout needed to rein in a highly organised and well-entrenched social force.