Sajjan Jindal's secret meeting with Nawaz Sharif sparks controversy in Pakistan
The Indian steel tycoon reportedly visited Nawaz Sharif at the Pakistan prime minister's residence on April 26. Photograph: (Reuters)
Pakistan's opposition parties Friday questioned the timing and the motive behind the meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal at a private residence of the prime minister this week.
Opposition parties raised their doubts at a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, with lawmakers from Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalling the discussion on agenda items with a barrage of questions on Jindal's "secret" visit on Wednesday.
Jindal is said to be the man who had arranged a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif in Lahore on December 25 in 2015 on Sharif's birthday - also the day when his grand daughter Mehr-un-Nisa was married.
The Jindal-Sharif meeting has triggered speculation in the Pakistani media that the India-Pakistan talks could be revived after the bilateral ties strained over cross-border terror attacks in India and over the death penalty to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav by a Pakistani military court on spying charges.
PTI chief whip Shireen Mazari asked the government representatives how the Indian steel magnate was allowed to travel to the hill resort of Murree, 45 kms from the Pakistani capital, when he had a restricted visa for Islamabad and Lahore.
"If he came on a private visit, why did we receive reports regarding his welcome through the Foreign Office?" she said.
She was joined by PPP's Nafeesa Shah, who criticised the government's silence over the visit until the media broke the news.
"Why is the government quiet with regard to the visit of Jindal. Why so much secrecy over it?" she said.
Committee chairman Leghari retrieved the situation when he said that Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb had already said that it was a private visit and nothing to do with diplomacy or relations with India.
Meanwhile, speculations were rife about the purpose of the visit, which took place weeks after Kulbhushan Jadhav was given the death penalty. India has said it would go to any length to save him.
It has also been said that the meeting was part of a "back-channel" diplomacy to clear the way for a meeting between Sharif and Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in June in Kazakhstan.
Imran Khan's party today (April 28) submitted an adjournment motion in the National Assembly secretariat. It urged that the agenda should be postponed to discuss the visit and meeting between Jindal with Sharif.
"Jindal's secret visit to Pakistan after Kulbhushan Jadhav has been awarded the death sentence is significant," according to the motion, filed by PTI lawmaker Murad Saeed.