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Return the favour

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar |
April 14, 2012 12:11:33 am


Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari knocked at the door of Ajmer’s Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti on Sunday,and on Thursday,the largest-ever Pakistani expo began in New Delhi. A day later,a new trade gate opened at the Wagah-Attari joint checkpost. India’s commerce minister,Anand Sharma,also made an “in-principle” announcement about allowing Pakistani investment in India. Pakistan’s newspapers have been upbeat about Zardari’s lunch date with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and by now,over the expected boom in trade ties with India.

The News reported before the visit that “while the Pakistan president will be accompanied by his personal security teams,New Delhi will spare no ends to provide comprehensive security to the VVIP visitor and his son who is the chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). This includes multiple pilots,full escort and medical cover with the route being sanitised for the Pak leader in New Delhi,Jaipur and Ajmer.” Zardari extended an invitation to his host to visit Pakistan. When Dr Singh accepted the invitation and said he will plan the visit at a “mutually convenient date”,Dawn’s editorial (April 11) said: “An obvious question that arises is: why doesn’t the Indian prime minister act on his promise and visit Pakistan… Evidently,finding a mutually acceptable date is not the problem; the problem is the two governments’ dismal failure to create a propitious atmosphere for talks… Singh is projected in his country as a man of peace,and there is nothing to suggest that the feeling in this country is different… Although greater movement is needed on a number of issues facing India and Pakistan,a visit by Singh to Pakistan could prove to be the much-needed catalyst for progress”.

Daily Times,in its editorial,downplayed the event but stressed it was important for Singh to make a trip to Pakistan: “As was on the cards,this ‘informal’ diplomacy was hardly likely to yield more than a discussion and at best a reiteration of the positions of both sides on these issues. What then explains the extraordinary media hype in both India and Pakistan prior to the visit,and the sense of deflation after the meeting?”


Zardari’s visit yielded a humanitarian result in India,with the release of the octogenarian Khalil Chishty from Ajmer’s jail after the Supreme Court ordered for his bail. The Express Tribune reported a day before Zardari landed in New Delhi that Iqbal Haider,prominent human rights activist and Pakistan’s former minister for human rights and law and justice,appealed to him “to move the Indian authorities for the release of Chishty during his visit to India… In his appeal,Haider reminded President Zardari of his own humanitarian gesture of releasing Indian prisoner Gopal Das in early 2011 in response to the request made by Justice Markandey Katju of the Indian Supreme Court. Haider said that if a similar request is made by President Zardari to his Indian counterpart or the Indian prime minister,‘they would be morally obliged to reciprocate his gesture’.” Daily Times reported on April 13 that “Pakistani authorities on Thursday released 26 Indian fishermen,including a cancer patient… Twenty-five of the released fishermen left Karachi for Lahore in a bus. The fisherman suffering from cancer would be flown to Lahore…” However,nine Indian fishermen and their boats were detained by Pakistan the same day for entering their territorial waters.


A natural catastrophe hit Pakistan’s army this week,high up in Siachen. Around 140 people,including 124 servicemen and 11 civilians,went missing after an avalanche hit Gyari,near Siachen,last Saturday. Relief and rescue operations are on,but no breakthrough has been reported so far because of the harsh weather conditions. Dawn reported on April 12: “More than 450 rescuers are working in sub-zero temperatures,although experts have said there is virtually no chance of finding any survivors.” Specialist teams from the US,Germany and Switzerland are being sent by road and air to the site,while Chinese and Norwegian teams are expected in Islamabad soon,updated The Express Tribune on April 13,attributing this information to the army’s external publicity wing.

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