Media Briefing|

(2016-03-10) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

This week was quite eventful. The President attended the OIC Extraordinary Summit in Indonesia to discuss Palestinian issue. The Prime Minister, accompanied by the Chief of Army Staff and Special Assistant to PM on Foreign Affairs is on a visit to Saudi Arabia.

As a goodwill gesture, Pakistan released 87 Indian prisoners.

The Security Team visited India to discuss and assess the security arrangements for our Cricket Team for T20 World Cup.

The nation joined the International Community in celebrating International Women’s Day. My sincere good wishes and respects to the ladies sitting in this august gathering and heartiest felicitations to those distinguished women who made us proud with their achievements.

The British Foreign Secretary H.E. Philip Hammond paid an official visit to Islamabad on 8 March. I have tweeted some of his complimentary remarks for Pakistan.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

Regarding the T20 World Cup, has Pakistan been given a clear cut assurance by the Government of India regarding security arrangements? (Essa Naqvi – Dunya TV)

Answer

The Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) addressed a press conference last night on the issue. If you need any update on the issue then please contact PCB.

Question

After the recent Pakistan-US strategic dialogue in Washington DC, the joint statement referred to Kashmir as a disputed issue. How do you see this development? (Fayyaz Raja – Channel 92)

Supplementary Question:

The British Foreign Secretary in the press stake-out said that resolution of the Kashmir dispute should not be a pre-condition for Pak-India dialogue. Your comments please. (Anwar Abbas – Waqat News)

Answer

Jammu and Kashmir dispute is one of the oldest outstanding issues on the UN agenda. There are numerous UN Security Council resolutions, pending their implementation, which envisage the right to self-determination for the Kashmiris. We welcome the Pakistan-US joint statement, which reiterates the recognized fact.

Regarding the other question, Kashmir is on the agenda of Pakistan-India dialogue, whenever it takes place.

Question

Is there a possibility that Prime Minister or the President watch the forthcoming Pakistan-India match in the T20 World Cup, as a part of cricket diplomacy and people to people contacts? (Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail Islamabad)

Answer

As I stated last time, Pakistan believes in people to people contacts. We believe that it is a good confidence-building-measure (CBM) and has also been among the strands of the Pakistan-India dialogue. However, regarding the details of the T20 World Cup matches, I would suggest you to contact PCB.

Question

Three Kashmiri freedom fighters were martyred by the Indian security forces in IOK, which was followed by inhuman treatment meted out to unarmed Kashmiri women and children. Pakistan did not issue any reaction to condemn it. Has the policy of moral, diplomatic and political support changed? (Amjad Ali – PTV)

Answer:

Pakistan continues to extend its steadfast moral, political and diplomatic support to the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir in their just struggle for realization of their right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. There has been no change in Pakistan’s principled position on Jammu and Kashmir dispute. We have always condemned human rights violations by the Indian security forces. This support will continue till the implementation of pending UN Security Council resolutions. We also take every opportunity to raise the issue of gross human rights violations in IOK at international forums.

Question

India has confirmed after 8 years the imprisonment of a Pakistani, Mr. Irfan, who went missing after Samjhauta Express terrorist attack. What efforts were made by Pakistan after he went missing? And now that he has been located, when is he expected to return? (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)

Answer:

The reported news item is in the notice of our Mission in New Delhi. Based on previous such media reports, our Mission has regularly been asking for consular access to Mr. Irfan. However, no access was granted by the Indian Government. Following this recent news report, Pakistan High Commission’s consular team, which was on its routine consular visit to Amritsar Jail, specifically inquired about Mr. Irfan, and was informed that there is no such Pakistani in the jail.

Our Mission in New Delhi is pursuing the issue.

Question

Regarding people to people contacts, I know you react with positivity and high hopes every time. However, kindly look at the reality on the ground. Whenever Pakistani artists go to India, they are threatened or attacked and many have to come back without performing there. From culture to sports to literature, the situation is similar. Such attitude by India is counter-productive. Your comments please. (Mateen Haider – Dawn News)

Answer

Your question contained the answer itself and I agree with you that such treatment to our artists and sportsmen is counter-productive in the context of confidence building that the people to people contacts help build. It is not helpful that when efforts are undertaken at the leadership level for confidence building and to reduce the tension, such efforts are undermined at the local level. From time to time, such events have been reported in the press and we take note of that. We also express our views and take up such issues with India. However, kindly understand that there are all types of people everywhere and many successful visits have also taken place, especially in Pakistan, where no such incident has taken place.

Our policy is based on the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘good neighborly relations’, including with India. We make efforts for the implementation of his vision in letter and the spirit. I would also draw your attention to the fact that people to people contacts are not just cultural or sports related, but also include religious tourism. Many Indian Sikh Yatrees and Hindu pilgrims visit holy places in Pakistan and many Pakistanis go to visit shrines in India.

Question

Regarding the Afghan peace talks, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz hinted that some progress is expected soon. Has Pakistan been in contact with factions of the Taliban and what is their response in this regard? (Ishtiaq Ahmed – VOA)

Supplementary Question

The Afghan peace process seems to have stalled due to pre-conditions by the Taliban. Some senior officials in Kabul and I will quote Mr. Mohaqqiq, the Deputy Chief Executive of Afghanistan, has warned that if the Taliban did not come to the negotiating table, there would be military action against them not only by Afghan National Forces but their allies also. In such a scenario, will Pakistan use its influence which it had claimed in the past to bring the Taliban to the table? (Muddasir Hussain – Khyber News)

Answer

Both your questions relate to the prospects of talks between the Afghan Government and various Taliban/other groups in the efforts towards reconciliation. QCG countries are making concerted efforts to that end.

We have seen such media reports as well as those related to the Taliban’s response. Although we don’t comment on media reports, I wish to underline that it has been our consistent position that a politically negotiated settlement is the most viable option for bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan. This can only be achieved through an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process. Pakistan’s role along with the other two QCG members is to facilitate the process for a meaningful outcome. In the QCG meetings, we had agreed to continue joint efforts for peace talks between the Afghan Government and Taliban under the principle of shared commitment. We will continue to play our sincere role in this regard. President Ghani has renewed the invitation to all the groups.

I would again reiterate that it is a “shared” responsibility of all the QCG members to bring the Taliban and other groups to the negotiation table.

Question

Amidst the uncertainty whether the Pakistan team will attend the T20 World Cup, there are reports that a lot of Pakistani supporters are being denied visas by the Indian High Commission. Will you take up this issue with the Indian authorities? (Naveed Siddique – SAMAA TV)

Answer

This issue has not been brought to our attention by the visa applicants. When notified, we take up visa related issues depending on its nature. However, please note that Foreign Embassies/Consulates are independent (sovereign) in their decisions to issue or deny visas. It is up to their policy as to how they assess every case.

Question

There have been two declarations between Pakistan and India in the recent past, the Ufa Declaration and the Islamabad Declaration. India seems to be following the former and not the Islamabad Declaration, in which Pakistan and India agreed to Foreign Secretary level talks. What I mean is that India is only focusing on terrorism and not on Kashmir and other issues. Your comments. (Khalid Jameel – Abb Tak)

Answer

We remain committed to counter-terrorism efforts. Pakistan is not the only country facing the menace of terrorism but this scourge is a challenge for the regional countries as well as the phenomenon is global. Our position is that Pakistan supports all efforts towards eliminating terrorism and extremism. Our position on the issue of Kashmir dispute is also well known.

Question

This is in the context of intelligence sharing reports by NSA with his Indian Counterpart. Is there any mechanism between the two countries or does Pakistan shared this information as part of international efforts against terrorism? (Fakhar-ur-Rehman – Turkish News Agency)

Answer

The Adviser to the Prime Minister Mr. Sartaj Aziz and the Interior Minister have already made their remarks in this regard. I don’t have anything further to add except that in the fight against terrorism, Pakistan’s principled position is well known. We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan cooperates with the international community to root out this menace.

Question

Is another QCG meeting expected soon in the current scenario because Taliban are rejecting any talks with the Afghan Government?

Secondly, the Prime Minister is on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Is there a possibility now of knowing our role in the Saudi Arabia led 34 countries alliance? (Rabia Peer – Voice of America Radio)

Answer

The Prime Minister is visiting Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the King to witness the closing ceremony of North Thunder Military Exercise. Pakistan’s participation in this military coalition is to contribute against extremism and terrorism. Leadership of 15 countries are expected to attend the said exercise.

Regarding your first question, I don’t think any date has yet been decided for the next round of QCG talks. You are also aware that Pakistan has offered to host talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban/other groups in this regard, which the QCG members welcomed. Whenever dates for the 5th QCG are decided, we will share with you.

Question

Senate has passed a resolution to revisit Indus water treaty with India. Is Foreign office thinking on these lines because it is a very tricky matter to revisit this treaty? (Abid Khursheed, ATV)

Answer

This matter falls in the domain of Ministry of Water and Power and the Indus Water Commissioner’s Office. I suggest that this question may be directed to them.

Question

Few days back the High Commissioner of Pakistan in India Mr. Abdul Basit said that if he is considered an agent of Pakistan than he is proud of it. “And if I am considered an agent of ISI, which is our prestigious agency then I am also proud of it.” Why did he give such a statement? Whether India is blaming him, if so, is it not against diplomatic norms? What is the stance of Pakistan on this? (Sheeba Mehar-Sama TV)

Answer

These are media reports and as I have already said that we don’t comment on media reports. Mr. Abdul Basit is a very seasoned diplomat.

Question

How many Pakistani troops have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to participate in operation North Strom? Whether these troops will come back to Pakistan or they will cross the border in to Yemen?

What about the Saudi Arabia onslaught in Yemen? Do we support them as a part of war against terrorism? (Anwar Abbas – Waqat News)

Answer

Regarding your question on our troops’ presence as also with regard to the regional situation, we have issued press releases in this regard, recently, which are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

Question

During the recent Pak-US Strategic Dialogue, Adviser Mr. Sartaj Aziz admitted that Pakistan is hosting some Taliban leaders and it has some leverage to cancel their facilities to bring them to the dialogue table. What is your response on it? (Majid Khan – INT)

Answer

This question was raised in the last media briefing also and I had said that I am not going to comment on what Adviser Mr. Sartaj Aziz reportedly said. Those were media reports. I had said earlier also that one must see things in their correct perspective.

Question

Though you have declined to comments on media reports but there are some media reports today about the Army Chief proposed to be made Commander in Chief of the thirty four nation military alliance led by Saudi Arabia. Is there any such proposal with Pakistan? (Farhat Javaid – Geo TV)

Answer

I am not aware of this.

Question

What is your estimate about the number of people that have crossed into Afghanistan after operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched? And what is the exact number of the people still living there? (Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)

Answer

I have no idea. I don’t think anyone would have an exact number on this. The border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is very porous. Thousands of people cross this border daily in both directions. I think you should ask this question to M/o Interior as border related issues are their domain.

Question

There has been no clarity from the government or Foreign Office on the T20 world cup. Although ICC has changed the venue of the match but still the Indian government has not given any assurance to Pakistan. Whether Foreign Office has taken up this matter with India on the diplomatic front? Although India claims itself to be a superpower but why can’t it provide security to our cricket team while on the other hand Pakistan is arresting people on the request of India? (Saad Umer – Weekly Pakistani)

Answer

This question has already been addressed. You have all the reports in front of you. Security remains the responsibility of the country hosting an event. It would be better you direct your question to PCB.

Question

Pakistan released 87 Indian fishermen as a goodwill gesture, obviously it is not the only area in which Pakistan has shown such gesture. Whether India has reciprocated Pakistan’s gesture? (Amjad Ali – PTV)

Answer

Yes it is true that we released the Indian prisoners as a goodwill gesture as we have done in the past also. We are anticipating release of more such prisoners who have completed their sentences. We are doing it because it is the right thing to do and we attach high importance to human-rights values. The Government of India has released 04 civilians in February 2016.

Question

There have been rumors about the serious illness of MQM leader Altaf Hussain. As he is a dual national, whether Foreign Office is in touch with the British Government to provide assistance. (Salman Rao – TNT)

Answer

This question was asked earlier also and I had advised that it may be directed to the Ministry of Interior.

Question

How many Pakistanis are in Saudi prisons? It has been learnt that they have not been helped by the government. Can you share if anything has been done and that during the PM’s visit whether the issue is being taken?

Answer

As of December 2015, a total of 2393 Pakistani were detained in Saudi prisons, serving sentences under various crimes.

The Government extends full support to meeting their requirements. In accordance with the government policy to put special efforts on welfare of overseas Pakistani, the Missions ensure that our nationals in difficulty receive the best possible assistance. The services that are provided to our prisoners in jails and detention centres by our Missions are:

Regular Consular visits are undertaken to meet the detainees and extend them possible assistance, including legal support.
Emergency Travel documents are issued to those detainees who complete their sentence and desire to travel back home.
Ensure that Pakistanis are set free, on completion of sentence, without delay.
Translation services are provided on request in the Labour Court.
The problems related to the detainees that come to our notice are raised with the relevant authorities.
A proposal to conclude an agreement with Saudi Arabia for transfer of prisoners is under consideration.

The matters related to the welfare of our Pakistani expatriates in the Kingdom are discussed with the Saudi Authorities during high level interactions.

Question

The Marshall Islands have filed a suit against India, Pakistan and the UK in the ICJ regarding disarming their nuclear arsenals?

Answer

The Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), with which Pakistan maintains no diplomatic relations, has filed suits at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against all the nine Nuclear Capable States of the world. However, in conformity with the Statute of the Court, only Pakistan, India and the United Kingdom have been asked to respond to the RMI’s suits since these countries recognized the jurisdiction of the court for certain specific issues at the time of their ratification of the Court’s Statute.

The case brought up by RMI does not fall within the scope of those specific issues over which Pakistan recognizes the ICJ’s jurisdiction. The Government of Pakistan has submitted a comprehensive written response to the Court in the form of a Counter-Memorial, seeking dismissal of the RMI’s suit for lack of the Court’s jurisdiction to entertain the RMI’s claims and the inadmissibility of the RMI’s application. A detailed press release containing Pakistan’s line of arguments presented to ICJ in the Counter-Memorial is being issued.

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