Dr Mubashir Hasan, a peace activist and a former finance minister during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government, called for broader ties between Pakistan and India given their history of confrontation.
The opening of unhindered trade will benefit both India and Pakistan, he said. However, according to Hasan, the absence of trade was not the main reason for the conflict between the two countries.
"When Pakistan came into being in 1947, there was no hindrance to trade. There was no hindrance to free flow of traffic, movement of peoples on both sides. There was no bar on newspapers at that time," he said.
"It was India, which decided to put restrictions on trade and movement of people. Pakistan Railways engines used to move by using coal from India. Lahore used to get electricity from India. We had Indian banks in Lahore. All that was gradually closed by India," he added.
"Distances between the ruling elites of India and Pakistan grew. They refused to resolve the Kashmir dispute and all that led to 1965 war. After which a heavy curtain dropped between India and Pakistan," he added.
Hasan, who is actively engaged in peace process under the banner of Pak-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), wished the two governments good-luck as they try to improve relations, but said they need to transform their intentions into actions.
As far as trade is concerned, so far, only agreements have been signed and permission to buy or sell goods from India has yet not been granted, he said. Pakistan has only allowed 1100 rather unimportant items for import from India. It has promised to remove restrictions by December 31, 2012, he added.
"In order to judge the impact of the decision, we have to wait till the end of the year. Only then one would be able to assess the impact of this decision. I am not 100 percent sure that trade would be fully opened by the end of the year."
However, more than trade, it is necessary to build the confidence between two peoples, Hasan said.
"When they are allowed to meet, there would be real basis for better relations. At the moment, the ruling elites of both sides are scared of their peoples. If people are allowed to meet, they will be able to put pressure on the ruling elites that they should abandon their 64 years policy of confrontation," he added.
"Kashmir issue, which is the main hindrance in good relations, will be resolved. Kashmiris' free movement on both sides will be a great step towards better relations and improving trade for mutual economic benefits."
- Waqar Gillani
Monday, April 23, 2012
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
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