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Record of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on 16 February 2017

(2017-02-16) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum

We strongly condemn terrorist attack in Lahore, attack on Judges' vehicle in Hayatabad, yesterday, and earlier, Shahadat of bomb disposal squad in Quetta, and Shahadat of our 3 brave soldiers at LoC due to Indian unprovoked ceasefire violations.

We salute personnel of our valiant Law Enforcement Agencies, who laid their lives for us. We are deeply saddened at the loss of our brethren's precious lives. We pray for them. Those behind these terrorist attacks should know that our resilient nation remains undeterred by such cowardly acts rather it further emboldens our resolve to deal with our enemies and the enemies of humanity decisively and eliminate the menace.

Indian occupation forces in their continued act of state terrorism blasted a house in Kulgam, resulting in the death of, reportedly, 6 Kashmiris on 13 Feb. Around 30 were injured, when Indian forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators. Pallet guns were used ruthlessly. Entire Hurriyat Leadership, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik have been arrested to deny them protest against killings of innocent Kashmiris. Chairperson of Dukhtaran-e-Millat, Aasiya Andrabi and her associate Sofi Fahmeeda remain in continuous house arrest. Kashmiris are constantly denied offering of Juma prayers.

India's continued atrocities against defenceless Kashmiris in IOK and violation of Kashmiris' fundamental rights are highly condemnable and International Community should call India to account for its crimes against humanity in Indian occupied Kashmir. We remain committed to the Kashmiris' legitimate movement for self determination.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

According to ISPR, three Pakistani soldiers were killed in ceasefire violations by Indian troops along the Line of Control. Pakistan lodged protest with India many times in the past after calling Indian High Commissioner to the Foreign Office but to no avail. What other options Pakistan have to halt India from committing ceasefire violations across LoC? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal - Kashmir Post)

Answer

The Indian forces repeatedly indulge in ceasefire violations on the LoC and the Working Boundary, resulting in the loss of more than 50 innocent civilians and injuries to 145 in the year 2016. The villages and populated areas are being targeted deliberately by the Indian occupation forces. Pakistan has repeatedly lodged protest with India in this regard. However, our armed forces have always given a befitting response to Indian aggression with entire Pakistani nation united.

It is no hidden fact that the purpose behind heating up of LoC and WB by India is to desperately divert the world's attention from the genocide and grave human rights violations committed by the Indian occupation forces against defenceless Kashmiris in IOK.

Besides lodging protests, Foreign Office has been regularly briefing the diplomatic community in Islamabad including P5 countries, OIC Ambassadors, and Representatives of other countries on the situation created by India that threatens peace in the region.

However, the role of UNMOGIP is crucial. We call upon the UNMOGIP, which has the mandate to monitor the ceasefire violations at LoC and Working Boundary, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, to play its role. Pakistan has always extended full cooperation to UNMOGIP. On the contrary, India constantly violates the UN Resolutions by not cooperating with UNMOGIP.

Question

On the one hand, the current wave of terrorism, which has affected all provinces and on the other India is committing ceasefire violations on LoC regularly. Has Pakistan taken up the issue of direct and indirect Indian involvement in terrorist activities inside Pakistan? According to the investigations, the recent terrorist attack in Lahore is also being linked with the Indian intelligence agencies to sabotage the PSL final. Your comments please! (Asghar Ali Mubarak - Dail Mail Islamabad)

Supplementary Question

According to Indian Express a top Indian official said that "CPEC is not acceptable to India and it will be a bleeding artery for Pakistan and China". The statement comes in the wake of arrest of RAW agents from GB recently, and just two days after the statement, terrorist attack happened in Lahore. Social media is rife with speculation of Indian involvement. Any link between India and Lahore incident? Your views please. (Amjad Ali - PTV News)

Answer

Government of Punjab and Ministry of Interior are the relevant authorities to speak on Lahore attack. I understand that the investigations are on and, reportedly, some arrests have also been made. Pakistan - China cooperation on CPEC and a number of other projects is well known and reflects the special relationship between the two countries. Cooperation is better than conflict and we expect other countries to understand this.

In the context of Indian involvement, I think that we had talked about it on many occasions. We have already taken up the issue of Indian involvement in terrorism and terror financing in Pakistan with the UN Secretary General. Pakistan is one of the biggest victims of terrorism, more so, of the terrorist activities perpetrated by Indian state agencies. They not only perpetrate such activities but also finance such terror activities. We have already taken up this issue and we will constantly take it up with the international community.

Question

Russia hosted a conference on Afghanistan in Moscow attended by Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iran. With many initiatives on Afghanistan running, what are prospects of this new Russian initiative? (Tariq Mahmood - SAMAA TV)

Answer

The 6 Party talks, which concluded yesterday, discussed regional approaches to the security situation in Afghanistan and agreed on enlargement of this 6-Party format with the inclusion of Central Asian countries, at first. They also agreed to further increase efforts towards peace and stability in Afghanistan under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Pakistan welcomes all such initiatives. We expect regional countries to play their constructive role in this regard.

Question

Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has been appointed Pakistan's Ambassador to the USA. There is information that Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Mr. Abdul Basit is going to be replaced by Mr. Sohail Mahmood. What is your input on this? (Shafique Ahmad - Times Now)

Answer

These are the administrative matters and I am not privy to that. I am informed about such decision after approval, as in the case of the appointment of Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry as Ambassador to the US. Once any such decision on replacement is made, we will inform the media, accordingly.

Question

India's Navy is looking for a new foreign fighter jet after rejecting an indigenously made aircraft as too heavy. It has invited manufacturer from various countries to develop state of the art war planes. Please comment on Indian designs in the context of India's growing hunt for arms race in the region, giving rise to imbalance in strategic regional output. Do you think it is to scuttle CPEC as well? (Shahid Maitla - ARY News)

Answer

India's defence build-up is a threat to regional peace and stability. India's ambitious program of arms purchases is perpetuating a perilous arms race, which is not in the interest of the region. India's nuclear weapons ambition is also a matter of grave concern from the regional security perspective.

In context of the CPEC, India has opposed it and we have also responded to it. Couple of months back, we placed before you the charge sheet against number of Indian High Commission officials, how they wanted to sabotage CPEC, among other subversive activities. Kulbushan Yadev in his confession also revealed that sabotage of CPEC among the plan. We are looking at this aspect of defense build-up as it is disturbing the strategic balance of conventional weapons and its adverse bearing on regional peace.

Question

Foreign Office summoned Afghanistan Ambassador in the context of recent terrorist activities. There are reports that RAW, NDS and Taliban have united against Pakistan and they are using the Afghan soil against Pakistan. When you talked about this issue with the Afghan DHM, what was his response? Do you think that these forces have united against Pakistan and they are using Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan? (Riffat - Radio Free Europe)

Supplementary Question

Afghan DHM was summoned in Foreign Office in connection to recent terrorist attacks. Do you think that Afghanistan is directly responsible for these acts of terrorism as it has failed to curb terrorism?

Secondly, in the meeting in Moscow, which was about the peace and development in Afghanistan, did Pakistan take up this issue with the Afghanistan and regional stakeholders? (Anas Malik - ARY News Karachi)

Answer

In Moscow meeting, the discussions were about the situation in Afghanistan and the regional approaches towards peace and stability in Afghanistan. The impact of the situation in Afghanistan on the regional countries was a matter of concern. Regional countries are getting together to cooperate and enhance efforts towards peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Turmoil in Afghanistan, which is persisting for almost forty years now and especially the current situation in the last few years, has created space for the violent non-state actors and terrorist organizations to find their foothold there. We have talked about this on a number of occasions, particularly in the context of previously launched attacks on Pakistani soil, especially attack on Army Public School, in which there were clear indications of the Afghan soil being used to launch terrorist attacks. We took up the issue with the Afghan DHM because the responsibility for the Lahore terrorist attack was claimed by Jamaat-ul-Ahraar, which is based in Afghanistan.

We have before us a number of references and reports filed on the situation in Afghanistan. These include a UN Report of 2014, report by General Nicholson and most recent report filed by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). All these reports highlight that almost all the factors responsible for turmoil in Afghanistan are internal to Afghanistan. This is what we have been talking about. We have urged to the Afghan side earlier, and this time also, to take necessary steps to address our concerns in this regard. We remained committed to provide all necessary support and cooperation to bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Question

My question is regarding the news story which states that so far 40,000 Pakistani have either been deported from Saudi Arabia in a few months, or languishing in Saudi jails. They have not been provided any legal assistance, and charges of terrorism etc are being leveled against them. Is Pakistan sensitive to the plight of these Pakistanis, because although their charges might not be real, their plight is? (Syed Mohsin Raza - Asas Group of Publications)

Question

Please share the data of how many Pakistanis were arrested in KSA, including those who went missing. Also tells us what efforts Pakistan has undertaken in this regard? (Anwar Abbas - Waqt News)

Answer

First, what you are referring to, the figure of 39,000 which is being reported in the media, is exaggerated. Second, you need to look at the reasons behind their arrests. Most of the people are those who have violated local Saudi laws including mostly those who abscond their local Kafeels. Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been considerate. The violators are usually repatriated on Saudi government's expense. Our missions remain in constant contact at various levels with the relevant authorities there.

I invite your attention to those Pakistanis who were facing the problem of non-payment of their salaries because of financial difficulties of some private companies in Saudi Arabia. Previously, I have discussed and shared in detail how Saudi authorities have been very helpful and forthcoming in addressing the concerns of affected Pakistanis. None of the Pakistanis who were in that situation were deported. Only those who commit violations of local laws are deported.

There are instances where people have been allegedly found involved or having alleged links to terrorist incidents. Since these are allegations waiting to be proven, both sides cooperate with each other. I don't agree with the premise that the grievances of our Pakistani community are not addressed. The Government and Missions in Saudi Arabia address their issues as far as possible, and to the best of our capacity.

Given the sizeable presence of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, it needs to be realized that the process of intake of our workers and their repatriation is cyclical in nature. The Government of KSA constantly takes in a good number of Pakistani labour to meet their market demand; those whose contracts expire, return to the country. I think we need to see things in their proper perspective to grasp the correct picture.

Coming to the supplementary question, you must understand that these figures keep changing. There is a cyclic process, as I tried to expalin. If I tell you one figure now, it will change tomorrow and this phenomenon is not just specific to Pakistan. The figure quoted in the earlier question was a reported figure, therefore I had to clarify that it was exaggerated. I have given a detailed account of our efforts, and tried to put things into perspective.

Question

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres after meeting with Saudi King Salman said that Islamophobic feelings, policies and hate speeches are fueling terrorism across the globe. Isn't this a clear message to western countries to review their policies towards Muslim countries? Your comments please! (Essa Naqvi - Dunya News)

Answer

We could not agree more with the statement of the UN Secretary General regarding Islamophobia and related tendencies including hate speech, which fuel terrorism and extremism around the world. In fact, Pakistan has been at the forefront of global advocacy against Islamophobia and defamation of religions at international forums, including the UN and the OIC. We have been calling for enhanced understanding and dialogue between cultures, religions and civilizations for promoting world peace and development. These efforts are essential for a comprehensive approach against terrorism and extremism.

Question

According to Indian media reports, Pakistan declined the Indian invitation to attend South Asian Speakers' Summit in Indore on 18-20 February 2017. Can you confirm? If so, is it Pakistan's reaction to Indian sabotage of SAARC Summit? (Mona Khan - Geo News)

Answer

Indian government was informed that due to the important Session of the National Assembly during that period, the Speaker National Assembly would not be able to attend the event.

Question

You mentioned earlier that Central Asia will be included in the Moscow's regional initiative on Afghanistan, as is evident from yesterday's meeting. Central Asia was also involved in the Heart of Asia process, and so was United States. Has Russia initiated this effort to include Central Asia but not the United States?

Secondly, US Commission on International religious freedom, in a recently released report on challenges faced by religious minorities in India, has once again highlighted the tools and state craft used by successive Indian governments, and culminated in the Modi era, of incremental repression and discrimination against minorities in India, especially Muslims, Sikhs and Dalits. Your comments in the light of India's lofty claims of secularism! (Shaukat Paracha - Aaj TV)

Answer

Proposed inclusion of Central Asian states to further expand the 6 nation format was the outcome of the meeting that was held yesterday in Moscow. This was the first meeting. Therefore, one can't reflect on it that the initiative will supplement other initiatives, such as Heart of Asia, as you mentioned. The discussions focused assessing the situation in Afghanistan and approaches towards attaining peace in Afghanistan, and taking affective steps to address those concerns. There is common concern of the regional countries on the growing footprint of terrorist organizations like Daesh in Afghanistan, and is directly related to the peace efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, as well as maintaining regional peace.

With regard to your second question, the instances of attacks in India by the Hindu extremists on minorities, especially Muslims, Christians and Dalits have enormously increased in recent years. Muslims are being killed by Hindu extremist and fanatics for slaughtering cows and for eating beef. They are being forcefully converted to Hinduism through 'Ghar Wapsi' Programme. Similarly, Hindu terrorist organizations have mounted attacks on Muslims in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The report acknowledges the stark reality characterized by deteriorating religious tolerance and increasing religious freedom violations. India needs to take concrete steps on ground to address the growing concerns of the international community.

Question

IoK Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti, while addressing a public gathering has demanded for opening of Kargil-Ladakh road and Siachen for tourism. Your comments please! (Fida Hussain - Radio News Network)

Answer

I have not read the statement, so I won't be able to comment. Elections in Jammu & Kashmir are sham elections, and the government over there is also a sham government, which is in violation of those UNSC Resolutions, that clearly state that such elections in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir cannot be a replacement or substitute for the plebiscite promised to the Kashmiri people under UNSC Resolutions. India is in violation of UNSC Resolutions by way of declaring IOK as its integral part.

The important issue at hand is that of Kashmiris' indigenous movement for self-determination and the fundamental rights denied to them, and India's grave human rights violations and crime against innocent Kashmiris in IoK. These are the issues that need to be addressed urgently. We have repeatedly urged the international community to pay attention to the grave situation in IoK and call upon India to not only immediately halt bloodshed of innocent Kashmiris but also make efforts towards an early resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance the aspirations of its people and relevant UNSC Resolutions. Once this is done, all other issues will also be addressed.

Question

Will there be any discussions among the ECO member countries to be linked with CPEC during the ECO Summit? Is there a possibility China joining the ECO? (Kauser Lodhi - Prime News)

Answer

The theme of the Summit is "Connectivity with Prosperity". Therefore, all matters of enhancing connectivity and economic cooperation will be discussed during the Summit. About CPEC, I have said earlier also, that its initial phase will end when the early harvest projects come to completion. CPEC is a bilateral project of Pakistan and China. The two countries will discuss modalities on the nature of participation of other countries. It is clear that CPEC is not just an economic project for Pakistan or China, but it will bring benefits for the entire region. It affords Pakistan the opportunity to play a role of bridge between South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia by virtue of its unique geo-strategic location at the crossroads of these regions.

Question

My Question is also related to Afghanistan, couple of months ago Pakistan and Afghanistan made strategy regarding border mechanism. And now Pakistan and Afghanistan are blaming each other regarding different matters. How this mechanism can be made more useful? (Tariq Sial - Daily Times)

Answer

Border management is very important in addressing the issue of cross border terrorism, which is a mutual concern of both countries. Because there is infiltration from Afghan side and terrorists cross the border and carry out terrorist activities in Pakistan. It is actually for this reason that we have put in place the border control and management mechanism. Thus, both the sides have to cooperate with each other to address this issue and the concerns of both sides. We have consultative mechanisms. I believe that any difference can be sorted out through consultation. Any two countries, which share border would have problems. The border management is something, which is evolving. Our worries are genuine and well recognized. We have suffered at the hands of terrorism including the infiltration from across the border. We have flagged this issue many times. With time, the border mechanism will be more effective and there will be better understanding, which is in the interest of both countries.

Question

Few days back Foreign Office issued a statement in which few points were about the Pakistan-US relations and particularly on the subject of Afghanistan. Has there been any feedback to Pakistan on these points from the US side particularly related to Afghanistan and fight against terrorism. Also in the context of criticism from Gen. Nicholson and response was issued from Pakistan.

Secondly, between Afghanistan and Pakistan there has been a mechanism of intelligence sharing at the DGMOs level. Pakistan has shared actionable intelligence against the terrorist with Afghanistan but it seems that this system is not helping. Has there been any response from the Afghan side on this issue? (Fakhar Rahman - Turkish News Agency)

Supplementary Question

Gen. Nicholson is reportedly is telling Pakistan and asking US to review its relations with Pakistan in future. Your comments please. (Syed Mohsin Raza - Asas Group of Publications)

Answer

To both of your questions, we have issued statement recently, which highlighted our viewpoint. You may see it on our website.

As far as sharing actionable intelligence is concerned, I don't deal with the operational details. You may contact concerned quarters in this regard. We have said in our press release that we have shared intelligence with Afghanistan, as we do with other countries as well, wherever warranted.