Media Briefing|

(2014-03-13)

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Opening Remarks
Second Review of the Pakistan-UK Enhanced Strategic Dialogue. (Details can be reached on the Ministry’s website.)

Now the floor is open for Questions

Question
There is fear that in the upcoming meeting of the WHO Pakistan might be placed on the list of countries with precarious situation on Polio besides Nigeria and Afghanistan. What measures have been taken to pacify the concerns of WHO?

Secondly, after Pakistan has successfully attained the GSP plus Status, we are now hearing of concerns voiced by the European community in very harsh terms about Pakistan’s ability to control terrorism and its relations with India. Will you comment?

Thirdly, there are reports that certain countries from the Middle East specially Saudi Arabia are contemplating on imposing regulations for making OPV mandatory for Pakistani travelers. Can you confirm?

Answer
About Polio, more than anyone else, it is our concern. It is about the future and health of our children. The Federal and Provincial governments are focused on that issue. They have expressed the determination to carry forward the Polio eradication campaign. Unlike the perception, the reality is that most of the children in KPK and FATA have been inoculated. The WHO chief was here. She held meetings and those were very constructive meetings. We have remained engaged with WHO in Geneva as well and while they understand the problem, the security threats, they are keen to help Pakistan overcome this problem and provide vaccination to all children. You may also recall that recently there was a meeting in Jeddah in which our focal person for Polio, officials as well as some Ulema from the Muslim World participated. They came up with a Fatwa that Polio vaccination was perfectly legitimate and Halal. There was no need for concern. Moreover, the Polio Vaccine being used in Pakistan is procured from Indonesia, another Muslim country. This is an ongoing issue and we will remain engaged with WHO and other governments.

We have no information about any country, apart from only one country which has done it, plans to impose restrictions on Pakistani travelers.

As for your second question, we have become part of the GSP plus Scheme from 1st January and you must have seen the figures issued by our Ministry of Commerce that there are already positive trends in our trade relations with the European Union. One thing must be kept in mind; this trade is not one way. It helps the European Union as well.

About the concerns voiced by the EU Ambassadors, Pakistan has become party to 27 human rights conventions including two covenants. The process for our accession to these conventions started long before the GSP Plus engagement with the European Union. Primarily, we have done it for our own people. These conventions and covenants require a number of measures that the state parties are supposed to take including enabling legislations. We have been doing that from the 1990s and this process continues. It is for our own people. It is to inculcate a culture of respect for human rights and it’s for us to proceed, keeping in view the requirements and the changes that are required in the law, its implementation and giving up certain practices. We expect the Ambassadors of EU as well as others to abide by the norms of internationally recognized diplomatic behavior and not comment on our internal matters.

Question
Yesterday, the Finance Minister revealed for the first time that a certain friendly country has donated 1.5 billion dollars to Pakistan. Everyone in the stock market believes it is Saudi Arabia. Can you update us on where we are in terms of the post Prince Salman discussions on security relations with Saudi Arabia?

Secondly, recently the Council of Islamic Ideology came up with a decision which has been picked up by many human rights groups inside and outside Pakistan. The suggestion from the Ulema is that any Muslim man in Pakistan can get a second wife without obtaining consent of the first wife. As far as our foreign policy obligations are concerned or our commitment to the outside community, do you have a view on this specific decision?

Answer
About the Finance Minister’s statement, no, I am not aware which country he is referring to. With many countries, there are discussions for large scale investments in Pakistan. These countries include the Gulf countries and Turkey. I do not know frankly, which country was referred to. As regards the security cooperation with Saudi Arabia, as has been said previously there are discussions but nothing specific has been signed. But we have long standing security cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which is mainly in the form of providing training to the Saudi Armed Forces officials.

On the second question I will not comment. It is an internal matter. It does not concern foreign policy.

Question
There are reports that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be visiting United Kingdom somewhere in the middle of next month. Can you confirm?

Second question is on the IAEA chief’s visit to Pakistan; even yesterday he was at the Strategic Plans Division. Did he visit any nuclear installations? Did he express satisfaction or concerns on the security of Pakistan’s nuclear installations?

Answer
The statements of DG IAEA are already out there. I understand he also gave some interviews. As in the past, he has expressed complete confidence in the safety and security of our nuclear installations. He visited Chashma yesterday. I don’t know whether he visited KANUPP as well. He was quite impressed with the safety measures that are in place. We have long standing cooperation with IAEA in the field of safety. All our civilian nuclear facilities are under IAEA safeguards.

Yes, Prime minister’s visit is on the cards. There is an invitation. But it’s not by the middle of next month. We will let you know the dates when they are finalized.
Question
Now as the GCC is clearly divided into two groups. On one side there is Saudi Arabia and on the other side is Qatar and LNG import. So where does Pakistan stand now?

Answer
It’s not just LNG export. We have long standing brotherly relations with all the GCC countries. We will continue to endeavor to further strengthen our ties with these countries particularly in the realm of trade, energy and economic cooperation. The differences you are referring to are their internal matter, we would not comment on that.

Question
There have been statements from Iranian side which show that Iran has established a view that Pakistan is not serious on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. It is also clear that after 31st December 2014, Pakistan will have to pay 3 million dollars as penalty per day. What is the policy of government of Pakistan on it? Is it serious on this matter?

Answer
I will say that we have full commitment to this project and it has been stated repeatedly. Last week, the Advisor to the PM on National Security & Foreign Affairs also said it in the parliament. We have had discussions and a number of options are under consideration by the two sides. I don’t agree that there is an impression in Iran that Pakistan is not serious. Pakistan is serious and Iranian government is aware of that. We are considering a number of proposals together.

Question
Is there any proposal being discussed on immigration between Pakistan and UK during the current review of the Strategic Dialogue between the two countries? There are reports of mass deportations of Pakistanis among other nationals. Do you have any figures on this?

Answer
No, you know that Pakistan and the European Union signed a Re-admission Agreement and under that those persons whose Pakistani nationality is determined and who are living in the United Kingdom or any other European country illegally, we accept them back. There are no mass deportations but some illegal Pakistanis are coming back. Our Ministry of Interior is coordinating. They may be able to give exact figures.

Question
There were reports regarding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s probable meeting with President Barack Obama at The Hague. Can you please confirm officially whether this meeting has been finalized and what’s going to be on the agenda of this meeting?

Answer
There are no bilateral meetings scheduled. The leaders will get together for the summit. It is likely that there can be some conversations on the sidelines. But no formal meetings are scheduled at the moment.

Question
The Afghan Presidential elections are approaching. Is there any formal request for cooperation or assistance from the Afghan side as it has always been the case in the past?

Secondly, it is strange to note this time that the Afghan Refugees in Pakistan are not part of the franchise. Is it on the request of Pakistan or from Afghanistan itself that they are not given the right to vote?

Answer
I don’t know; that’s an Afghan decision. Certainly, it’s not for us to decide who would participate in the elections in Afghanistan. It is most probably because of some administrative arrangements they are not able to make for conducting elections for Afghan refugees in Pakistan. This question may be addressed to the Afghan authorities.

As for the first question, we will extend whatever help the Afghan government requests us for and we are able to give.

Question
There are reports suggesting that NDMA status might be given to India by the end of this month. Do you think it is possible before the upcoming elections in India? We have also seen reports that the Foreign Office is not very keen on expediting the process of giving NDMA status to India. Your comment on this?

Answer
As the name indicates, NDMA means non-discriminatory market access. There are a number of things in that respect that India is expected to do. You would recall the meeting that took place in Delhi on the sidelines of the SAARC Business Conclave where certain timelines were agreed by Pakistan and India. Once India completes those actions, NDMA would be given by both countries to each other. This is not correct that the Foreign Office is opposing it. This is a decision that the government of Pakistan will take after consultation with all the stakeholders.

Question
According to some reports, the uniforms of some Pakistani soldiers have been smuggled to the Indian held Kashmir. Have you taken this matter up with the Indian authorities?

Secondly, Pakistan was holding discussions with the Council of Europe and the US to reach an agreement for the return of prisoners. What is the progress?

Answer
For your first question, ISPR would be able to respond to this. I have no information.

For the second question, yes, Pakistan did apply for the accession to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. The procedure is that new members can seek to be invited to accede to the convention. We sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe expressing our interest in acceding to the convention and asking them to initiate the process to invite Pakistan to join. After the letter of interest is received, the Council circulates it among members and invitation to a country to join the convention has to come after developing consensus. This process takes long time. So far, we have no information that such a consensus has been achieved.

Question
Has Pakistan offered any assistance in the rescue operation for the missing Malaysian Airline Flight considering the number of Chinese citizens on board?

Answer
Well, the missing Flight has become an enigma. There were some reports yesterday that after disappearing from the radar, there are chances that it continued flying for many hours. We would be ready to extend whatever help is required but I am not sure what would that be. It is possible that our Civil Aviation Authorities have already shared the data with the Malaysian authorities but I have no information that it has happened.

Question
There are reports that there are various bodies who are seeking release of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Are you in contact with those bodies or are you trying for the release of the detained Pakistanis? What is the exact number of Pakistanis detained there?

There were also reports that Pakistan has signed an agreement with the US for the return of the Pakistanis detained in Guantanamo Bay. Is that true?

Answer
I don’t know the exact number but yes, we have been in contact with the US authorities. There have been visits in the past by officials of the Ministry of Interior to meet the detainees and determine their nationality. Many Pakistanis were released as a result of those efforts.

As for the agreement that you mentioned, I will have to check.
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