(2014-07-24)[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]
· This Press Briefing was conducted by the Foreign Secretary.
It is a pleasure to meet you. I have decided to appear at this weekly press briefing of the Spokesperson to signify and share with you the deep anguish and concern that the Government of Pakistan has over the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. The Israeli military offensive has led to the killings in Gaza of innocent, non-combatant, and unarmed Palestinians, including women and children. We are deeply appalled at this carnage in Gaza.
Pakistan, as you all know, has been a firm, consistent and vocal supporter of Palestinian cause. Ever since our independence in 1947, our leadership has all along supported the right of the Palestinians to self-determine their destiny and create a Palestinian State. The Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in October 1947 gave a clear direction to us in support of the Palestinian cause.
In the present crisis in Gaza, in the wake of Israeli aggression, Pakistan’s voice has been led at the highest level by the Prime Minister himself who condemned the Israeli aggression and the genocide it is committing and expressed the solidarity of the people of Pakistan with their Palestinian brothers.
Under the instructions and the guidance of the Prime Minister, Pakistan has mobilized international opinion to end the ongoing atrocities in Palestine due to Israel military offensive. We have spoken clearly and unambiguously in the United Nations Security Council yesterday and called for an end to hostilities and to revive the peace talks. We also called on the Security Council to act by adopting a resolution that would call for an immediate and an unconditional ceasefire, halt Israeli air, ground and naval offensive, and remove Israeli forces from Gaza.
On the humanitarian and human rights aspect also, Pakistan is actively working with Muslim and likeminded countries to secure humanitarian access to those who are badly wounded and stranded in shelters. At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pakistan on behalf of the OIC spearheaded a resolution, which has since been adopted by the Council. It is important that the blockade of Gaza is ended, its border opened, and the Palestinian prisoners released.
Our Deputy Speaker of National Assembly is participating in a Conference convened in Iran.
Our efforts at the diplomatic and international domains, including UN Security Council, UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights OIC, NAM, and all other related forum will continue until the ongoing atrocities in Palestine are ended. Pakistan is convinced that violence and bloodshed cannot achieve any solution. For enduring peace, an independent Palestinian State based on pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Sharif as its capital, is the right way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.
The floor is now open for questions
Thank you sir for this comprehensive briefing! My question is regarding the hospitals in Gaza which are reportedly short of medicines and paramedic staff. Is the Government of Pakistan considering sending some shipment of this kind or other humanitarian aid to Gaza?
Secondly, we have not seen any active response from the leadership of OIC on Gaza. Of course Pakistan is doing a lot as you have just pointed out but we have not seen much from the top OIC leadership. Your comments?
Most important requirement at this stage is to make Israel end its military offensive, declare an immediate and un-conditional cease fire and pull out of Gaza. The blockade of Gaza must be ended in order to allow access of any humanitarian assistance and that is why even in the UN Security Council and in the UN Human Rights Council, we call for humanitarian pauses. Unless the blockade is lifted, we can’t get our relief assistance sent. So our first effort at this moment is to mobilize international opinion and exert all efforts in this regard but we are exploring all options like the ones you mentioned to extend political and humanitarian support in consultation with Muslim and likeminded countries and play Pakistan’s due role.
As for OIC, I think there is a lot of activity going on there as well. Pakistan is actively engaged in that. As soon as we succeed in putting a halt to the Israeli military offensive, the door will be open for collective efforts in terms of humanitarian aid.
Countries like Egypt and Jordan have declared HAMAS as a terrorist organization. According to world view, it was HAMAS that started the irritation which resulted in this deadly offensive from Israel. What is Pakistan’s official position towards HAMAS? Do you foresee any kind of rapprochement between HAMAS and Al-Fatah in the near future?
Pakistan believes that the Palestinian issue must be resolved within the frame work of UN Security Council resolutions including resolution 242 and others which provide a good frame work for resolving this issue. As for intra Palestinian issues, I think this is something that the Palestinian leadership is fully seized off and the Arab group is helping them. We will follow whatever consensus they achieve but at this time this is not the real issue. The real issue is that in the Israeli military offensive there is no proportionality. You must have heard the UN Human Rights Commissioner herself speaking yesterday that some of these actions may actually tantamount to war crimes. This is not the time to worry about differences between the Palestinian ranks. That’s not the point. Innocent Palestinians mostly women and children are being killed and that’s where our heart goes out.
We have seen the UN Secretary General sitting with Mr. Netanyahu and saying that Israel has the right to defend itself. Should we still continue to keep our expectations from the UN whose head is singing the tunes of Israel?
United Nation is a very important forum. It is at the UNHRC itself where a resolution was adopted with 29 votes in favor one against and 17 abstentions on Gaza yesterday. We should not underestimate the importance of the role that the UN must play. It is our rightful expectation that United Nations would play a lead role in this. Apart from that, OIC must play a role and we are very active in that. In fact in Geneva, Pakistan leads the OIC group. The NAM also has a role to play. We are again very actively collaborating with them. Whatever the effort of the International Community in whatever forum, Pakistan stands with the Palestinians. We would use every forum to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from Gaza.
My question is regarding the Press Release that we received yesterday from the Foreign Office on your telephone conversation with the Indian Foreign Secretary. Could you give us some more details about that conversation? The Indian media has reported that the Indian Foreign Secretary pointed out the recent violations of LoC.
Supplementary Question 1:
Where was the request for the meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries initiated? Islamabad or New Delhi
Supplementary Question 2:
The Indian High Commissioner while speaking to media recently indicated that the UNMOGIP has no relevance. He further said that India does not recognize it as it is a useless body. How would you take this statement at this point when the two Foreign Secretaries are due to meet?
Secondly, the Indian High Commissioner has also blamed Pakistan of infiltration attempts from Pakistan side. He said that in the ensuing fire, one Indian jawan was killed. How do you respond to this?
Supplementary Question 3:
When is Pakistan going to grant MFN status to India? What are the impediments?
Beginning with the first question, as you all heard yesterday, Pakistan and India have simultaneously announced that the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting will be held on August 25. The meeting will be held in Islamabad. The objective is to carry forward the dialogue process in keeping with the vision of the two Prime Ministers who met in New Delhi on 27 May and directed that the two Foreign Secretaries should meet and also expressed their common desire to work together to improve good neighbourly bilateral relations. Pakistan and India, as you know, have been engaged at multiple levels to improve bilateral ties and address outstanding issues. The two countries have also been engaged in a composite dialogue process. We would welcome the opportunity of 25 August meeting to hold discussions on reviving the dialogue process to discuss all issues and promote cooperation to carry forward the peace process. It will be our desire to work together where we find common ground and common benefit and to resolve differences where we have disagreements and disputes.
· Now on the supplementary questions, the LoC first. Indeed the matter came up during the discussion. My response was that we have accurate information from Military Operations Directorate about the exact fire that was received by our posts from across the LoC. Our troops fired only in response. We do not accept that there were any infiltration attempts. It was also pointed out by us that the mechanism of DGs MO talking to each other every Tuesday is working well and we are open to ideas and suggestions to strengthen this mechanism and to increase its effectiveness. That was our response and I think there is agreement on both sides to continue and make maximum use of the mechanism of DGs MO hotline and contact between the local Commanders.
· Where was the request for the Foreign Secretaries meeting initiated? Well, the two countries have been in touch through diplomatic channels i.e. Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and Indian High Commission in Islamabad and it was decided through mutual agreement that the two Foreign Secretaries would first talk on 23rd July 2014 i.e. yesterday and would then agree on a date for their meeting. That is what happened.
· On UNMOGIP, our position has been made clear by our Spokesperson in several previous Press Briefings. We believe that UNMOGIP is playing an important role. We believe that the mandate for the UNMOGIP comes from UN Security Council resolutions and therefore, it is incumbent upon both the governments to facilitate its work. For its part, Pakistan is doing that and will continue to facilitate UNMOGIP which is a source for providing credible information to the UN Security Council through its regular periodic reports. We have noted with concern that there were some administrative issues for UMMOGIP in New Delhi but we believe it needs to be facilitated in the performance of its very important role.
· On MFN, you are well aware that Pakistan and India have been engaged in a series of discussions to normalize bilateral trade between the two countries. Our Commerce Ministry has been playing a leading role and useful work has been done on the basis of mutuality of benefit. When the dialogue process resumes, we hope to build on the work already done in this regard. As you are aware there are a number of issues on both sides which need to be addressed. This includes making sure that vulnerable sectors are protected, the issue of non- tariff barriers in India, the issue of imbalance of trade and some other infrastructure related issues. You might call them hurdles or impediments, I will say these are issues on which talks are ongoing and progress is being made.
There have been reports in media that soon a delegation from Pakistan would visit Kabul to request the Afghan government to handover the militants who have fled over the border to Afghanistan after Pakistan Army’s military operation. The delegation would reportedly discuss the case of Mullah Fazlullah as well who is hiding in Afghanistan. Can you confirm these reports?
I have seen these media reports. I don’t know what is the basis of these reports? I know that we are in constant touch with the Afghan government. When the Afghan National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Spanta visited Pakistan, there was a very useful discussion and a Joint Statement was issued. A Joint Working Group on Security has been established pursuant to which the military to military contact has been established. Views have been exchanged on both sides. It has been the desire of the Pakistani leadership to establish good neighborly relations with Afghanistan. We have launched a major operation in North Waziristan with the support and backing of the entire nation. It has been made clear by the President, the Prime Minister and all levels of leadership that this operation against all elements. But it is also our expectation that action would be taken on the Afghan side to check the fleeing terrorists and not to allow Afghan territory to be used by anti Pakistan elements. We believe that the all countries need to cooperate to fight terrorism and to get our region rid of this menace. For its part, Pakistan is doing its bit and we will continue to do so. We will continue to maintain our close contacts with Afghan government.
Please refer to the statement by Mr. Mehmood Khan Achakzai made in the Quetta Press Club where he said that Afghanistan was about to attack Pakistan and that was why you, Mr. Foreign Secretary and Mr. Achakzai ,went to Kabul in order to diffuse the situation. Would you like to explain what kind of attack was being planned by Afghanistan?
Mr. Mehmood Khan Achakzai was sent as a Special Envoy of the Prime Minister and I accompanied him. Talks were held with the Afghan leadership. The background was that there were reports that anti Pakistan elements, mainly the TTP, were grouping themselves to mount attacks on Pakistani posts. It was important that Afghanistan side is persuaded to extend and reciprocate the kind of cooperation Pakistan is extending to help establish a lasting peace. There were also some reports that some kind of incident might happen in Afghanistan which could have repercussions for the region and for us. It was important to sensitize the Afghanistan leadership that Pakistan and Afghanistan need to maintain close contact, need to defuse the crises and need to work together to ensure the success of smooth political, security and economic transition in Afghanistan. This action was taken in the spirit in which our leadership wants to see peace and stability in Afghanistan. We believe that a peaceful, united, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of the region and thereby in the interest of Pakistan. And that was the intention of the visit at that time.
There is a report today about a statement by ISAF chief that they were not satisfied with the outcome of the Zarb e Azab operation. Is there any official response given by Pakistan to ISAF or United Sates on such concerns?
Secondly, such allegations have also been raised by the Afghan officials. They even alleged that before launching the operation, Pakistani officials asked the Haqqani network to quit the area. Your response please.
I would not respond to allegations by counter allegations. This is not the policy of the Government of Pakistan. Ever since this Government came into power we have received very clear instructions not to trade allegations but only respond with restraint and responsibility. That, you have seen we have done faithfully.
Pakistan is carrying out a military operation in North Waziristan which is effectively eliminating the terrorists’ hideouts. The whole nation stands behind this operation. The Prime Minister of Pakistan worked assiduously to build national consensus to support this operation against terrorism. It has now been made clear at multiple levels that this operation will not distinguish between any terrorists. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and by whosoever it is committed. But at the same time, it is our expectation that at this crucial juncture we receive full cooperation of the international community particularly Afghanistan, where the Afghan forces need to check the fleeing terrorists and also eliminate any hideouts for anti Pakistan elements. I have said this earlier but I think it is important to repeat that allegations do not solve issues; actual cooperation does. We believe that it is only through mutual cooperation and mutual trust and by working together that we can eliminate terrorism from our region. We are doing our bit and we expect others to do the same. As for particular reference to Haqqanis, as I indicated, action is against all, repeat all terrorists. Pakistan has suffered enormously from terrorism. Most of you present here are Pakistanis like me and we, as citizens of this state, have suffered a lot from terrorism. And I think that the national resolve has come together to fight all terrorists. So, we do not accept any allegation and we believe that the resolve of the armed forces to take a stern and complete action in North Waziristan is fully backed by the people of Pakistan. We are confident that this will in sha Allah bring lasting peace to our country and region.
My first question is about the visit of Mr. Tariq Fatemi to the Washington. What is the latest update of this visit?
Secondly, you have mentioned that different things will be discussed in the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India. What is the agenda of this meeting because you have not mentioned anything about the Kashmir dispute?
Thirdly, Afghanistan is already creating problems for Pakistan. Has Pakistan sent any official message urging them to cooperate with us in the exchange of IDPs or issues?
The Special Assistant to Prime Minister Syed Tariq Fatemi is meeting with high officials in the US administration and several congressmen. He would also be visiting New York where he will participate in some debates. The objective of the visit is to promote our cooperation with the United States and also to project Pakistan’s view point and perspective. It’s an important relationship and the present Government has worked hard to guide this relationship for the mutuality of benefit and interests of both counties. I think this visit will also contribute to this end.
On the agenda of the Foreign Secretary talks, I think my statement was very clear. I have said that during this meeting we will discuss the resumption of the dialogue process to discuss all issues, to improve bilateral ties and to address all outstanding issues including Kashmir. So, that is something obvious.
On Afghanistan again, I have given the answer. We have taken up this matter with the Afghan Government several times through our ambassadors and through visits that we need their cooperation in not allowing the Afghan territory to be misused by anti Pakistan terrorists and elements. To answer your question, yes we have done so.
Thank you very much. It has been really a pleasure talking to you again after sometime.
Last modified: November 22, 2019
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