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Pak panel against MFN-status to India

Islamabad: A top Pakistani Parliamentary panel has expressed reservations about the government's move to grant the Most Favoured Nation-status to India, with some of its members claiming that the measure would "destroy" the domestic agriculture sector.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee, which is headed by the ruling PPP lawmaker Nadeem Afzal Chan, voiced their reservations during a meeting and sought a detailed briefing on the matter from the Commerce Ministry after 'Muharram' holidays.

The PPP-led government has repeatedly said it is committed to phasing out a negative list regime for trade with India by December 31 and granting MFN-status by the beginning of next year.

The two countries have taken several steps in recent months, including the signing of three agreements, to boost bilateral trade to USD six billion by 2014.

However, members of the Public Accounts Committee expressed concern over the move to do away with the negative list regime during a meeting on Friday and some even claimed it would "destroy" the domestic agriculture industry.

Committee member Noor Alam Khan of the PPP said India gave subsidies to its farmers while Pakistan's agricultural industry was on the "brink of disaster".
He claimed MFN-status is being given to India due to "foreign pressure."

However, the committee chief Chan said the trade between the two countries should be promoted and the move to grant MFN-status was a good decision by the government.

He asked those representing the country's agricultural sector to discuss issues related to the MFN-status and to protect the rights of the Pakistani farmers.

Commerce Secretary Munir Qureshi said India was not the only country that is being granted MFN-status. The decision to do away with the negative list regime was made by the federal Cabinet during a meeting in March, he said. Other members of the committee questioned whether farmers were taken into confidence before the decision was made.

Hardline and extremist groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah too have opposed the Pakistan government's decision to grant MFN-status to India and warned that they will organise protests across the country if the government goes ahead with the move.

(Agencies)

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