–Govt also likely to suspend transit trade with Afghanistan after latter approaches UN with cross-border shelling complaint
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is mulling to impose a ban on the use of Pakistani airspace by Indian airlines as well as an embargo on the use of Pakistani land routes for India’s trade with Afghanistan.
The ban on Indian flights was thoroughly debated during the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
According to informed sources, Prime Minister Imran directed the ministries of law, aviation, defence, and other relevant departments to take all necessary actions to fulfill the international obligations in this regard.
It merits mention here that all the governments have to follow regulations for air safety and the airspace can only be closed for any country after making a case and keeping in view all necessary legal and international aviation laws.
The federal cabinet debated this issue thoroughly but could not take a final decision. Later, the prime minister chaired a follow-up meeting and directed the relevant authorities to make necessary arrangements.
The reason for a potential ban that may come into effect by Thursday is that Pakistan “fears a threat from India keeping in view the hostile situation on the Line of Control (LoC)”.
Moreover, the situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) also doesn’t allow Pakistan to take any risk.
This would be a second time Pakistan would close its airspace to India flights. The airspace restrictions for Indian flights were lifted in July after months of suspension imposed in the wake of a standoff with New Delhi earlier this year.
On July 18, Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had told a press conference that Pakistan suffered losses of more than $50 million because of airspace restrictions put in place amid violent clashes with India. On the other hand, India’s Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri recently told parliament that Indian air firms — Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo, and GoAir — lost almost $80m because of the closure of Pakistani airspace.
It may be noted here the Indian prime minister had used the airspace to travel to Paris last week, which had raised many questions.
The same development was shared by Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry for information as well.
In a tweet, the minister warned that the “prime minister was considering a complete closure of air space to India, a complete ban on the use of Pakistan land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in the cabinet meeting, legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration”.
PM is considering a complete closure of Air Space to India, a complete ban on use of Pakistan Land routes for Indian trade to Afghanistan was also suggested in cabinet meeting,legal formalities for these decisions are under consideration… #Modi has started we ll finish!
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) August 27, 2019
The development comes amid deteriorating Pakistan-India ties amid an unprecedented clampdown on occupied Kashmir by the Indian government following the abrogation of Article 370.
Pakistan has already downgraded diplomatic ties with India by sending its diplomatic staff home along with suspending bilateral trade.
‘BAN ON TRANSIT TRADE’:
The decision to ban trade transit was taken in a response to Afghanistan’s complaint to the United Nation, which accused Pakistan of cross-border shelling.
The Afghan government on August 22, moved a quiet request to the United Nations through its permanent representative to lodge a protest against what it called Pakistani shelling in the Afghan areas from across the border.
Pakistan had allowed Afghan-Indian transit trade through Pakistan on a special request made by Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani during his recent visit to Pakistan.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan and other Pakistani officials agreed during meetings that Afghan trucks would be allowed to cross the Wagah-Attari border and delivered goods in India. Similarly, Pakistan will be connected with Central Asia via Afghanistan,” he had said following the visit.
It is interesting to note that the timing of complaint against Pakistan coincides with Pakistan’s diplomatic triumph over India as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a special session on to discuss unilateral action by India in Kashmir in violation of its own constitution and UN resolutions on August 16.
A diplomatic source in Islamabad says that Pakistan has taken the Afghan move as an act of “backstabbing” despite its ‘unconditional’ support for Afghan peace process.
‘PROTESTS FOR KASHMIRIS’:
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Prime Minister Imran Khan would advocate the Kashmiris’ cause at the United Nations General Assembly [on Sept 27].
Addressing a press conference to brief journalists about the federal cabinet’s decisions, she said the prime minister took his ministers into confidence about the steps taken by the government on the Kashmir issue.
The prime minister told the cabinet about the efforts to highlight the Kashmir issue at international fora and the government’s strategy for future, she added.
The cabinet endorsed the prime minister’s decision to observe every Friday as Kashmir Solidarity Day and his efforts to turn the Kashmir issue into a movement.
She said a focal group had been established and during its meeting opposition members, Mushahid Hussain Sayed of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Naveed Qamar of the Pakistan People’s Party, supported the government’s priorities on Kashmir.
Firdous said Imran Khan has “become a voice” for the Kashmiris as he had turned the issue of Kashmir into a “movement”.
Protests on the streets of Pakistan would be a message to the world that it had to do more to resolve the Kashmir issue, she added.
The cabinet discussed different options to give momentum to the Kashmir freedom movement by arranging activities every Friday.