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Pakistan govt’s election considerations hold up border trade

PTI Islamabad | Updated on December 02, 2012 Published on December 02, 2012

Pakistan has missed a self-imposed deadline for allowing all tradable items through land routes from India because of stiff resistance from “land-owning elite” in the federal cabinet, according to a media report on Sunday.

The two countries had agreed during a meeting of their Commerce Secretaries in September to open the Wagah border and other land routes for trade in all commodities, including agricultural produce, by the end of October.

A joint statement issued at the time had said a proposal for removing restrictions on trade via land routes had been sent to the cabinet, which would notify its decision before the end of October.

However, the cabinet is reluctant to take up the proposal due to resistance from its members and parliamentarians, the influential Dawn newspaper reported today.

An unnamed official was quoted as saying that it appeared to be a “very difficult decision” for the government at a time when it is set to complete its tenure in the next few months.

Leaders of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party have said the next general election will most probably be held in May.

“No one can afford to take a decision that could send a negative message to voters,” the official was quoted as saying.

“The election will cause a delay in the liberalisation process launched in April,” the official added.

The PPP’s constituency consists mostly of landowners and farmers in southern Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The Commerce Ministry submitted a proposal seeking approval of a move to allow India to export more than 5,600 items by land, especially through the Wagah border, as against the current list of only 100 items allowed to enter Pakistan by land.

The joint statement issued in September had said that “after Pakistan has notified its removal of all restrictions on trade by Wagah-Attari land route, the Indian side would bring down its SAFTA sensitive list by 30 per cent before December 2012”.

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Published on December 02, 2012
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