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PM Nawaz Sharif’s clandestine meeting with Indian steel tycoon, Sajjan Jindal has sparked outrage throughout the country; this dealt another blow to the already insecure government. The fresh controversy has sent the government into damage control overdrive and has resulted in multiple representatives of the Prime Minister justifying the visit as an attempt at ‘back-channel diplomacy’.

Read More: Clandestine Indian visit sparks outcry

Ex-foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri characterized the speculation surrounding the visit as ‘unfortunate’ while stating that back-channel diplomacy can prove to be effective in some cases.

The visit is being seen as even more inappropriate because of the Indian reaction to the sentencing of the spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court.

Anonymous government sources have revealed to the media that this visit was an effort to coordinate a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers on the fringes of the  Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit to be held in June in Astana, Kazakhstan. It has also come to light that Mr. Jindal was carrying a personal message from PM Modi. It is yet unclear why these basic diplomatic undertakings required such covert methods. To address the media speculation, daughter of the Prime Minister, Maryam Nawaz tweeted:

Her response also fails to address the main query of the media which is questioning the secretive nature of the visit.

“We are concerned over the visit. Nawaz has business relations with Indians. It is not a mere coincidence that Newsgate scandal report and arrival of Jindal were timed so close,”

The visit is being seen as even more inappropriate because of the Indian reaction to the sentencing of the spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a military court. India had recently summoned the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit and handed over a demarche which described the court proceeding in the Jhadav case as farcical and characterized his sentencing as ‘premeditated murder’.

Read More: India’s first use Nuclear Policy: Should Pakistan be worried? “We are concerned over the visit. Nawaz has business relations with Indians. It is not a mere coincidence that Newsgate scandal report and arrival of Jindal were timed so close,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said while addressing the new development. The opposition has seized this chance and has labeled this visit as highly suspicious. On the floor of the Punjab Assembly, opposition leader and PTI member Mehmoodur Rasheed promptly passed a resolution inquiring after the nature of the visit. He stated that an Indian visit that circumvented the Foreign Office to directly meet the Prime Minister was highly inappropriate and reiterated the demand that the Prime Minister should resign.

“We are concerned over the visit. Nawaz has business relations with Indians. It is not a mere coincidence that Newsgate scandal report and arrival of Jindal were timed so close,” PTI spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said while addressing the new development. The opposition has seized this chance and has labeled this visit as highly suspicious. On the floor of the Punjab Assembly, opposition leader and PTI member Mehmoodur Rasheed promptly passed a resolution inquiring after the nature of the visit. He stated that an Indian visit that circumvented the Foreign Office to directly meet the Prime Minister was highly inappropriate and reiterated the demand that the Prime Minister should resign.

Another important point to be noted is that Mr. Jindal violated the terms of his visa as he was only allowed to visit Islamabad and Lahore but it has been reported by credible sources that the meeting took place in Murree.

“Given that this is yet another meeting held at a high level without the knowledge of the FO, it is high time that the people of Pakistan are taken into confidence about what transpires in such meetings,” said PPP Senator Sherry Rehman. In an adjournment motion she submitted in Senate, she went on to state: “It is widely reported that the prime minister of Pakistan has had an unofficial meeting with Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, who is on some diplomatic mission for Narendra Modi. The matter is of urgent public importance and the House may adjourn other business to discuss vital issues.”

Sajjan Jindal has a history of facilitating meetings between Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif. He had also been invited to the wedding of PM Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter. It is, as of yet, unclear if the government plans to give a clearer picture of the visit. This new controversy has added another smear to the already maligned image of the Prime Minister.

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