Media Briefing|

(2016-05-12) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

Assalaam Alaikum Distinguished friends, Ladies & Gentlemen!

You may have seen a number of press releases issued during this week on matters and issues of importance. I am availing the opportunity to highlight the importance being attached to the visit of OIC SG’s Special Representative on Jammu & Kashmir, which came on the heels of OIC Summit in Istanbul. You are already aware of the Resolution and Declaration adopted by the OIC Contact Group on Kashmir and the Summit, respectively.

Another important development was the recovery of Mr. Ali Haider Gilani in a joint counter-terrorism operation by the US Special Operations Forces and Afghan Commandos. He was later on formally received by the Pakistan’s Ambassador in Kabul yesterday before noon. Our Prime Minister had sent his special aircraft to bring Mr. Ali Gilani home, escorted by this Ministry’s protocol staff and Mr. Ali’s brother. The Leadership of Pakistan have deeply appreciated the successful efforts to recover Mr. Gilani.

Before I invite questions, I wish to congratulate all on the auspicious Mother’s Day which was observed in Pakistan last Sunday.

The floor is now open!

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

In a recent interview the Afghanistan Ambassador to Islamabad stated that Pakistan had not taken Afghanistan into confidence regarding recent talks with the Taliban.Your comments.(Tariq Siyal – Daily Times)

Answer

I have not seen the interview yet and would not comment on media reports.

Question

Pakistan has deeply appreciated the role of Afghan authorities and US Government in recovering Mr. Ali Gilani.However, recent reports suggest that the Torkham border is closed due to some tension between Pakistan and Afghan authorities. Your comments.(Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)

Answer

You are aware that the border between the two countries is porous. Illegal crossings and other associated issues are major challenges for both countries. To address the situation, the Government of Pakistan has decided to implement border control measures at Torkham for effective border management. It is in the interest of both the countries to have a well-regulated border. There were differences between the two sides on implementation of measures to manage and regulate the border, due to which the border has been temporarily closed. Both sides are in contact with each other through military to military channel to address this issue.

Question

After the last QCG round, bilateral talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban/other groups were to take place before the next round. Is the process continuing or is it over because such talks have not taken place?(Haroon Rashid – BBC)

Answer

After the last QCG round, it was “expected” that talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban would take place before the next round. This was an “expectation”, and not a “compulsion”. The responsibility of bringing the Taliban and other groups to the table is a shared responsibility of the QCG members. Bringing parties in conflict to the negotiating table is an arduous task, requiring patience and persistence.

All QCG members were of the view that the Taliban and other groups would gain more through negotiations than otherwise. The fifth QCG meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place in May. In the meantime, efforts will continue to bring the Taliban and other groups to the negotiation table.

Question

Without settling the Afghan crises, is it possible for Pakistan to benefit from projects like CASA-1000 and the TAPI gas pipeline? (Kauser Lodhi – Prime News)

Answer

We are still in the preliminary stages of CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline projects. In the case of CASA-1000, there has been a launching and in the case TAPI gas pipeline, it was a ground breaking ceremony. We still have to go a long distance. It is in the interest of not only Pakistan but the international community to see peace in Afghanistan. We have two initiatives going on towards this purpose, the QCG process and Heart of Asia process. Afghanistan had high level representation at both the events.

Question

Regarding the death penalty carried out by hanging Mr. Moti-Ur-Rehman Nizami in Bangladesh, can you confirm the reports that Bangladesh Foreign Ministry summoned our High Commissioner and as a tit for tat we also summoned the Bangladesh Acting High Commissioner? (Zarghoon Shah – Geo News)

Supplementary Question

There are reports that Turkey has recalled its Ambassador from Bangladesh. Is Pakistan going to take similar action?(Khalid Jameel – Abb Tak)

Bangladesh State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam has urged Pakistan not to interfere in Bangladesh internal affairs. Your comments.(Saeed Asif Ali – Din Media Group)

Answer

We have expressed our serious concern on the hanging. You may like to see yesterday’s press release. The Bangladesh CD’A was also called in by Director General South Asia and our serious concern was registered with the Bangladesh Government through diplomatic channels.You would also be aware that our Parliament has also adopted a resolution in this regard.

Let me clarify one thing, this was not a tit for tat response. Rather it is a matter which is of serious concern to Pakistan as well as the international community. You may have seen the concerns raised by the Human Rights Organizations on the flawed trials and the death penalties handed down.

It is NOT a matter of interference. The flawed trials pertain to the events before December 1971 and these gentlemen are being implicated for upholding the laws of Pakistan.

Question

Despite the worldwide condemnation for these executions in Bangladesh, why Pakistan’s response is so week? Don’t you think these executions are a violation of the 1974 Tripartite Agreement?(Mateen Haider – Dawn News)

Answer

I don’t agree that our response is weak. It is not a matter of “weak” or “strong” response. Pakistan has resolutely and strongly conveyed its concern. We have already expressed our deep concerns on the flawed trials. You might have seen the Human Rights Commission’s response to the hanging as well as of those of the European Union and its Members.

We are seriously concerned and have elaborated our response in great detail through our press release and the Resolution in the Parliament yesterday. We also called in the Bangladesh CD’A to register our concern through diplomatic channels

Question

The Foreign Secretary in an interview with Geo Group seemed hopeful about the F-16 negotiations with the US. My question is what other options does Pakistan have? What is the deadline regarding the financing of this particular sale? (Qasim Nauman – Wall Street Journal)

Answer

We have a strong collaboration with United States in context of counter-terrorism. The US has realized what Pakistan has achieved in this context and what are the requirements. You may recall that the US State Department Spokesperson had twice reiterated that the F-16s is being provided to Pakistan to enhance its precisionstrike capability against the terrorists. The menace of terrorism should not be left to any one country to eradicate. Terrorism is not just Pakistan’s concern, it is a global issue, the entire region and the world is affected by it. We hope that the cooperation of theinternational community and particularly that of the United States will continue.

Question

What is the official line conveyed to Pakistan by the Afghanistan Government regarding the recovery of Mr. Ali Gillani? Some reports suggest that his recovery was accidental. Your comments. (Gohar Abbas – AFP)

Answer

I don’t have operational details on the recovery. Our leadership has deeply appreciated the successful operation carried out by US Special Forces and Afghan National Army.

Question

Foreign Office is consistently repeating its stance on the Indian request for consular access to Kulbashan Yadav that it is under consideration. Can you please give us the exact status of Indian request? (Essa Naqvi – Dunya TV)

Answer

The Indian Naval officer working for Indian Spy Agency RAW was arrested during March. The Indian request for consular access was received in April. Any consular access request is considered under Vienna convention on Consular Relations in general. India and Pakistan also have a bilateral agreement, the relevant clauses of which apply on such circumstances in which Kulbhushan Yadav was arrested. He was involved in terrorism and terror financing in Pakistan. To put it simply, the Indian request for consular access has indeed been received and shall be considered in keeping with the relevant clauses of the two agreements.

Question

It has been reported that Mr. Ali Haider Gillani was recovered accidentally in an operation not designed to recover him. My question is: have you received any response from the Taliban regarding the QCG after the Mr. Ali Haider Gillani’s recovery? (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)

Answer

First, the Taliban are not part of the QCG, though bringing them on the table is the shared responsibility of all the QCG members. As I just said, efforts are going on to achieve that. I also stated earlier that QCG members feel that the Taliban/other groups have more to gain on the table than otherwise.

Question

Gilani’s family was in contact with the kidnappers of Ali Gilani for a long time and it was also certain that he was in Afghanistan. Whether this issue was discussed in last month’s secret visit of Afghan Taliban? (Anwar Abbas – Waqt News)

Answer

I don’t have any information on the visit you are referring to.

Question

My question is regarding the Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Ministry of Interior has made some amendments in their laws according to which Pakistanis can only have one entry-exit visa in a year. In the emails and complaints I have received, it has been said that this law is not being implemented on the Indian community and only Pakistanis are facing this law. People have also contacted our embassy in Riyadh but they have not received sufficient answers. (Hamza Rehman – APP)

Answer

I will look into the matter. It seems unusual to me. Kindly share your emails with me and I will get back to you.

Question

Can you be little specific about the Taliban and other groups who are being invited for talks with Afghanistan? Because after now we have been hearing only about Taliban who are being persuaded for the talks with Afghanistan, can you be little specific? (Shahid-Ur-Rehman – Kyodo News)

Answer

Other groups besides the Taliban have been invited. I know about the Hekmatyar group. There may be some other groups as well.

Question

According to some media reports almost five hundreds Pakistanis are stranded in Turkey who wanted to enter Greece illegally. Do you have any information in this regard? Whether our mission over there has been contacted? (Fayaz Raja – 92 News)

Answer

Many illegal immigrants are using the Turkish-Greek route and some of them are Pakistanis. Many refugees are coming from Syria and that has aggravated the situation. Turkey is geographically located between three different continents thus it is mostly being used as a land route to go to Europe.

The Host countries where Pakistanis get stranded always contact our respective Missions where they are provided all possible assistance including issuance of travel documents to go back to Pakistan. We also have an agreement regarding repatriation with Turkey, EU and UK. We have an understanding with them that whenever illegal immigrants of Pakistani origin are arrested over there, and it is verified that they are Pakistanis then we accept their return and travel document is issued to them. Those who already have travel documents i.e. they are travelling on passports but they don’t have valid visa sometimes are deported without the knowledge of the Mission or the Missions are informed subsequently. Checking the national status of illegal immigrants who claim to be Pakistanis is determined by a set procedure which does take time. There have been instances when those claiming to be Pakistanis infact belonged to other nationalities

Financial assistance is given on a case to case basis.

Question

Currently, after the return of ISAF forces, there is no joint border mechanism between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, how we will deal with the incidents like Torkham. Whether there are any discussions going on for new border mechanism? (Naveed Akbar – Dunya Newspaper)

Answer

In cases when there is no such mechanism, the two countries interact with each other on different levels and through various channels. Currently, military to military channel is operating.

Border management is essentially the Ministry of Interior’s responsibility. At the moment, due to counter-terrorism operation being carried out in the areas near the border, our army is deployed in that area. Afghan National Forces are also deployed on the other side. Thus, automatically military to military communication takes place. Otherwise, we have different forums and mechanisms through which we discuss issues of mutual interest. This issue will be resolved soon.

Question

As SAARC Summit will be taking place in Pakistan later this year, Indian Prime Minister had already been invited. Do we hope before SAARC Summit the resumption of Comprehensive Dialogue or at least the dialogue at the Foreign Secretary Level. Any hint or indication so far from Indian side. (Mateen Haider – Dawn News)

Answer

First of all, the dialogue is not linked to the SAARC Summit. In the context of dialogue, Pakistan’s position has been stated a number of times.We are ready for dialogue whenever India is ready. I have also mentioned previously as well that dialogue is the best option.

In line with the Prime Minister’s vision, we pursue a policy of good neighbourly relations in the larger interest of regional security, progress and economic prosperity, for which dialogue to settle contentious issues is an imperative. Pakistan believes in uninterrupted, sustainable and result-oriented dialogue in which all issues of mutual concern are discussed and resolved.

Question

Has any of our Mission heard about complaints from Pakistani workers that their employment contract was not respected specifically with reference to Saudi Bin Ladin Group? (Qasim Nauman – Wall Street Journal)

Answer

Our Consulate in Jeddah had received around 470 complaints from our expatriates after which the Consul General contacted the Bin Laden Group. The issue has now been resolved. Thousands of employees of various nationalities were affected by the inability of the group to pay salaries earlier. Bin Ladin has reportedly settled the salaries to 10,000 workers by now.

This actually brings me to the question which was asked earlier that Pakistanis have complained of specific treatment. By and large my experience is that Arab countries take a very lenient view when it comes to dealing with workers from friendly countries.

Question

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman has alleged that World has understood the terrorist safe havens are in Pakistan. Is the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship hostage to one odd incident that changes the rhetoric of the Afghan government? Hardly has the news of an attack come out when suddenly accusations against Pakistan run far and wild. What is Pakistan’s position? (Shah Nawaz Mohal – Pakistan Today)

Answer

Negative statements do not serve any purpose and only strengthen the hands of troublemakers and detractors of the ongoing efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. We believe instead of indulging in the blame game, we should focus our efforts on strengthening bilateral engagements and institutional cooperation.

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