Opening Kartarpur border shows our desire to normalise relations with India: Fawad


–Says China has been taken into confidence about the attack on its consulate in Karachi

–Says Bani Gala estate of PM Khan is totally legal

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Friday said the opening of Kartarpur border was a peace initiative of Pakistan as it wanted normalisation of relations with India to resolve economic problems and tackle poverty.

Speaking at a press conference, he said, “Pakistan wanted to move towards the normalisation of relations with India as we think normal relations with India will help us both fight poverty.”

Kartarpur border was not a political issue but it was a humanitarian issue as it was a sacred place for the Sikh community, he said, adding, “We respect beliefs of the Sikh community living inside and outside of Pakistan.”

The minister said the federal cabinet discussed and approved the opening of Kartarpur border.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that Pakistan would take two steps forward if India takes one, he reminded.

Fawad said, “We believe that the border should be opened and the Sikhs living in Indian Punjab should be given the opportunity to perform their religious rituals in Pakistan if they wanted to. The place is close to the international border of India and Pakistan and within a stone’s throw.”

He said a border opening ceremony would be held at Kartarpur on November 28 to facilitate the Sikh community, adding further details of the event would be shared.

It would be a big event — Navjot Singh Sidhu would come to Pakistan, visa would be relaxed for the Indian journalists and Pakistani and international journalists would also cover the event in the area of Narowal on Pakistani side of the border, he informed.

He said it would be made a permanent border opening and the Sikh community would come to perform their religious rituals. “It is a peace initiative like other peace initiatives of the government.”

The minister explained that the prime minister had stated that it was important to improve relations with India and Afghanistan. If the relations were improved, Pakistan due to its unique geographic location would be in the centre of two big markets of China and India on one side and Central Asian Republics via Afghanistan on the other.

“Our geographic location gives us a unique opportunity to resolve our economic problems and reduce poverty. When we talk of a peace initiative, we cannot forget Kashmir and it is necessary to move forward on the Kashmir issue. If you want permanent and lasting peace between Pakistan and India, Kashmir is an important element of it and will remain so. Kashmir will remain an important part of our foreign policy.”

He further said that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi called the Foreign Minister of China and took him into confidence about the attack incident on China’s consulate in Karachi. The Chinese foreign minister reciprocated the sentiments and said China would support Pakistan and no such incident could affect the relations of the two countries.

Fawad said there were reports that certain powers could not digest the relations of Pakistan and China and there was a possibility of such an incident. Unfortunately, it occurred.

The security officers and police fought and the terrorists failed to achieve their nefarious designs, he said, adding, Friday was chosen to inflict maximum damage as more people come to collect visas.

He said that the cabinet had paid tributes to those who laid down their lives in Karachi and Hangu. The cabinet also approved the appointment of Arif Usmani as the new National Bank President, he added.

The minister said the decisions of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) were also approved, including permission for export of sugar and import of urea.

To a question, the minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan built his house 30 years ago in Bani Gala when the place was just a forest, but it’s only in the incumbent government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that the Capital Development Authority, which comes under the authority of the PM, had the courage to tell the PM that his papers were not complete.

He said that the laws of 30 years back should be applied on the issue and not any new punitive law. “The house of the prime minister is completely legal.”

To a question, Fawad said he was of the view that media courses being taught at university and college level now would become obsolete in next 10 years and the nature of the jobs in media would change.

He said it was not his job to run private television channels or newspapers and that he was only pointing out that their present business models were not viable.

He went on to say that the previous government used advertisements as a political bribe and it was not possible further that the taxpayers’ money should continue to be spent on projecting certain faces.

To another question, he replied that the initial report of the attack on the Chinese Consulate in Karachi would be shared with the media.

He said the views expressed by the prime minister about the incident were based on the intelligence reports shared with him earlier.

The minister said that the strategy of the government was right and the situation was under control. He added that ‘we know exactly why it is happening. We understand the situation and those responsible for the attack will not be spared’.

The minister said many terror incidents were prevented in the past. Pakistan was facing an irregular conflict for the last two decades. Any other country would have disintegrated by this time but Pakistan is a resilient nation and its army and security institutions have successfully confronted the situation. He stated that ‘we are a strong nation and are close to finally defeat the menace’.

He said that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was investigating on merit and NAB chairman was a humane person. He said that the NAB does not come under the purview of government; otherwise, he would have invited media to visit it.

The minister said according to the law in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the speaker had the authority to appoint the chairman of the provincial Public Accounts Committee.

He said that in the federal parliament, it was a tradition to appoint the chairman of Public Accounts Committee from the opposition so that it could audit projects of the government.

“But we cannot allow the opposition to audit its own projects. We will audit the projects undertaken by the PML-N government while the opposition can audit our projects. There is no deal fairer than that,” the minister added.