THE live question-answer session on Sunday provided an opportunity to Prime Minister Imran Khan to dilate upon several important issues including his pet theme of lambasting the political opposition but most important was his categorical statement on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, which might help remove misgivings and confusion that persisted during the last few months due to moves aimed at warming up of relations with India.
Responding to queries from callers, the PM minced no words in announcing that normalization of ties or trade links with India in the given circumstances would amount to betrayal of Kashmiris.
He, however, made it clear that Pakistan could definitely hold talks with India if it withdraws its illegal and unilateral actions of the 5th of August.
This latest stance of the Prime Minister is in line with the national consensus on the issue of relations with India, therefore, augurs well for national unity and cohesion.
There is no denying the fact that the people of the region cannot achieve desired levels of progress and prosperity without durable peace and security but for that to happen the two countries will have to take tangible measures to address the root causes of tension and conflict in the region.
Successive leaders in Pakistan have been extending an olive branch to India and even went to the extent of some deviations from the principled position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir for the sake of peace but India never demonstrated genuine sincerity in resolution of the core issue of Kashmir.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also repeatedly made goodwill gestures towards India but his counterpart responded by illegally annexing Jammu and Kashmir in sheer violations of UN Security Council resolutions and commitments made by India before the world community.
India also resorted to the worst kind of repression in Occupied Kashmir under the cover of total blackout of information and other curbs.
In this backdrop, some moves, which were not apparently linked to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, legitimately made people suspicious about the real motives of the so-called détente.
Trade among neighbours is always mutually beneficial but normalization of trade or other relations with India without getting firm guarantees in respect of J&K sends highly confused signals to Kashmiris.
Kashmiris look towards Pakistan for political, moral and diplomatic support and any policy confusion would have disastrous consequences.
Other issues on which the Prime Minister spoke included GDP growth rate, economic performance of his Government, PDM and accountability, unemployment, price-hike, Rawalpindi Ring Road scam and problems of the citizens vis-à-vis housing societies.
Without going into the controversy of about 4% GDP growth rate during the outgoing financial year, one would tend to agree with the Prime Minister that macro-economic indicators have started improving.
Imran Khan has been saying for the last one year that the difficult phase of the economy is over and that now his Government would focus on providing relief to the masses.
Of course, packages unfolded by the PTI Government for different sectors of the economy have started bearing fruits but the plight of the people remains the same, rather stands complicated due to inability of the authorities concerned to stem the unbridled inflation.
In fact, a caller drew attention of the Prime Minister towards the miserable economic conditions of the people especially fixed-income groups and wanted to know whether the Government would grant some relief in terms of increase in pay.
The Prime Minister gave a philosophical answer to the pointed question and conveniently avoided a response about the possibility of relief in the coming budget.
One hopes the budget would not increase the burden of taxes on the common man and instead his life would be made easier through a combination of measures.
About the R3 scandal, the Prime Minister did well by reassuring that this vital project, aimed at resolving chronic transport-related problems of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, would be accomplished.
Probe into irregularities and corruption, if any, during realignment of the road is one thing but initiation and completion of the project is yet another and the relevant authorities should be instructed to finalize fresh alignment on a priority basis and begin actual work on the project.
We have also been hearing for a long time that the Government was working on categorizing the housing societies with a view to saving the hard earned money of the citizens but the pace of the exercise was too slow.
The Government should come out with a clear cut policy and not a confused one as we witnessed in the case of provision of electricity and gas connections in Islamabad, where people continue to suffer for no fault.