Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has been persistently championing trade with India in accordance with New Delhi’s wish that was recently met with the granting of MFN status. Arguing it would not harm Pakistan, he said that Pakistani products would be exported to India to the benefit of local entrepreneurs. This is far from the reality. Our businessmen are worried at harsh conditions that India slaps on goods it imports. One major concern is that these products would have to go through a discriminating screening process from each of the Indian state they would pass. Thus, the goods might be indefinitely held on the way to their destination on flimsy grounds, while the actual aim would be to harm Pakistan’s merchant community.

Also high tariffs would make the venture futile. The move has alarmed all patriotic Pakistanis who painfully ask why the Kashmir issue is not being tackled first. Does that mean that our rulers are forsaking the Kashmiris and the long drawn struggle that they have been fighting even since independence? Kashmiri leaders themselves have expressed concern at the government’s ardour for bilateral trade. Our leaders must carefully assess the pros and cons of the move lest they should do more harm to the economy as well as alienate our Kashmiri brethren.