(2018-01-25) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]
Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum Ladies & Gentlemen!
First, let me give a brief round-up of the activities on the foreign policy front:
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is participating in the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, from 24-25 January 2018 on the invitation of the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Professor Klaus Schwab. The Prime Minister is participating in a number of important events and holding bilateral meetings with world leaders and Chairpersons/CEOs of leading multinational organizations from the US, Europe, China and Japan.
The President of the Republic of Indonesia, His Excellency Joko Widodo, accompanied by Ministers and a large business delegation, will pay his first state visit to Pakistan on 26-27 January, 2018. Pakistan and Indonesia enjoy close historic and cordial relations. His visit indicates the growing bilateral political, parliamentary, economic, defence and people to people contacts between the two countries.
Pakistan condemned the drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) yesterday, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp. Pakistan continues to emphasize to the US the importance of sharing actionable intelligence, so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by our forces within our territory. Pakistan has also been stressing the need of early repatriation of Afghan refugees, as their presence in Pakistan helps Afghan terrorists to melt and morph among them. Such unilateral actions are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.
The Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr. J.P. Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office over the unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian occupation forces along the Working Boundary from 18 to 21 January 2018, resulting in the martyrdom of four civilians and injuries to many others. The Indian forces along the LoC and the Working Boundary are continuously engaged in indiscriminate and unprovoked firing with heavy mortars and automatic weapons on the civilian populated villages.
In 2018, the Indian forces have carried out more than 160 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in just 19 days. This unprecedented escalation continues from 2017, when the Indian forces committed 1970 ceasefire violations.
The Indian occupation forces’ brutalities and human rights atrocities continue unabated in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Only last night, three innocent and defenseless Kashmiris were martyred mercilessly. An 8 year old girl named Asifa Bano was abducted, molested and murdered in Jammu region in IoK. Miseries of the people in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir have increased manifolds as the Indian occupation forces have increased surprise frisking and checking across IoK in the name of so-called security measures. The Indian occupation forces also forcibly barged into several random houses, beat the residents and damaged the properties in Kulgam area. We strongly condemn the Indian human rights violations in IoK and urge the international community, including the UN, to take immediate action and call upon India to immediately halt the grave violations in IoK.
Pakistan has strongly condemned the terrorist attack at the Kabul Inter-Continental Hotel and in Jalalabad yesterday. Accusations of Taliban and HQN finding safe havens and hideouts in Pakistan are contrary to the ground realities. Pakistan has strengthened the border on its side by deploying over 200,000 troops, constructing scores of border posts and a fence to prevent unauthorized movement of people. The Afghan Government needs to make similar, complementary efforts on its side of the border.
On 19 January 2018, as a goodwill gesture the Foreign Secretary gave the custody of Obaid Ullah, an Afghan child, to the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad. He was reunited with his family after two years through the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our Embassy in Kabul and the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau of Pakistan. The Government and people of Afghanistan have deeply appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for taking good care of the destitute Afghan child and his safe reunion with his family.
The 5th round of the Pakistan-Philippines Bilateral Policy Consultations was held in Islamabad on 18 January 2018. The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and identified opportunities and possibilities for further cooperation including in the fields of security, counter-terrorism, economic development and trade, education, science and technology and agriculture.
The Government and people of Pakistan conveyed their deepest grief and sorrow over the loss of several precious lives as well as injuries to many more as a result of the bus accident in Turkish province, Eskisehir on 20 January 2018.
Now the Floor is open for Questions
Reportedly, a team from United Nations Security Council will arrive in Pakistan this week to assess its implementation of sanctions under UNSC Resolution 1267, directed against Taliban and other terrorists. Can you confirm? Please share more details in this regard.
Secondly, reportedly, US Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan has urged the Taliban to engage in peace talks with the Afghan Government, stating that only a political solution to the Afghan problem is sustainable and lasting. This is in sharp contrast to President Trump’s Afghanistan and South Asia policy, which focuses military action against the Taliban, and gives no timetable for US troops withdrawal. What are your comments on the statement? (Essa Naqvi – Dunya News)
On your first question, the Monitoring Team (MT) of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Sanctions Committee, dealing with the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Da’esh, is in Pakistan for a two-day visit. The last visit of the MT to Pakistan took place in January 2015.
The visit of the MT to Islamabad is part of its regular visits to Member States to assess compliance of the UN Sanctions Regimes relating to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1267. The Team also apprised Member States of current international and regional threat assessment from terrorism and suggests way in which the Member States can improve their implementation of sanctions measures.
During the visit, the MT is being briefed on implementation of 1267 obligations as well as shared our perspective on the terrorist threat in our region. The visit also gave us an opportunity to highlight our accomplishments in turning the tide against terrorism inside Pakistan and in support of global fight against terrorism.
On your second question, Pakistan has always maintained that the only viable solution to the Afghan conflict lies in a politically negotiated, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. The Military approach has been tried for over sixteen years and has failed to render the desired results. It has only increased the sufferings of the Afghan people and enhanced their resentment against the foreign forces on their land. The peace deal signed between the Afghan-Government and Hizb-e-Islami can serve as a model for future talks with other insurgent groups including the Taliban. It is essential that the Afghan leadership should come up with a credible and inclusive peace plan so that all Afghan stake holders are incentivized to promote peace.
The other day, Foreign Office issued a condemnation on drone strike in Kurram Agency that attacked the Afghan refugee camp. Today, US Embassy in Islamabad has issued a statement saying that Foreign Office’s statement of the attack on Afghan refugee camp is false. However, the US Embassy did not clarify further as to whether the drone strike happened or not, and if it did take place, what was the intended target? Please clarify the position! (Bashir Chaudhry – Channel 24)
During your last press briefing, you mentioned that in case of a drone strike in Pakistan, Pakistani forces would gun it down. Chief of Pakistan Air Force also gave a similar statement. However, we have seen no such thing during yesterday’s drone strike. Has our policy changed? Please clarify! (Rashida Sial – Abb Tak)
During an earlier strike in the Kurram Agency on 26 January 2016, the Foreign Office had issued a statement saying that the strike was a breach to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the contrary, yesterday’s statement in the same agency did not mention a similar statement. Secondly, is there any arrangement between Pakistan and the US on drone strikes particularly regarding the Haqqani Network based along the Pak-Afghan border? Your comments please! (Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)
UNHCR has said that it has no refugee camps in the area where the attack took place. US Embassy in Islamabad and State Department have also issued statements to this effect. Please clarify!(Gohar Abbas – APP)
Can you share the number of causalities that occurred during the drone strike, and did a high profile target get killed during this attack? (Kamran Haider – Bloomberg)
Is there any agreement between Pakistan and US, wherein US is permitted to attack some parts of Waziristan? (Anwar Abbas – Waqt News)
On the last question, I am not aware of any such agreement.
On the questions regarding drone strike, Pakistan’s position remains the same. Please see my comments on it in my previous briefings. We condemn the drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) yesterday, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp. Pakistan continues to emphasize to the US the importance of sharing actionable intelligence, so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by our forces within our territory. Pakistan has also been stressing the need of early repatriation of Afghan refugees, as their presence in Pakistan helps Afghan terrorists to melt and morph among them. Such unilateral actions are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism.
Reportedly, KPK Government has expressed concern over anti-Pakistan curriculum being taught in schools in Afghan refugee camps. Moreover, UNHCR is reported to have introduced this curriculum, which states that the Pak-Afghan international border is called Durand Line, while Gilgit Baltistan and Kashmir are the integral part of India. Your comments on this please!(Naveed Saddique – Dawn News)
The Foreign Ministry has taken up this matter with UNHCR and conveyed deep concerns. We expect international organizations to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, impartiality, and respect for national laws. The UNHCR has undertaken to launch investigation and share its findings. You may contact Ministry of States and Frontier Regions.
My question pertains to the recent drone strike in Kurram Agency. Did the Foreign Office summon US Ambassador and lodge protest in this regard?
Secondly, a demonstration was held in front of Press Club with respect to Pakistanis currently imprisoned in China, do you think that the Pakistanis are being held by China in reciprocity due to the recent ATM scandals in Pakistan, in which Chinese were held? Can you give the exact number of Pakistani prisoners currently held in Chinese jails, and categorized their crimes? (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)
I have already spoken about drone strike in detail.
Regarding your second question, I will gather details and revert.
Reportedly, India will undertake the pre-induction trial of 5,000 km rang Agni-V ICBM. Indian media has reported that this missile range brings all Asia and China within India’s nuclear strike capability! How do you comment on this development?
Secondly, there are also reports that India is developing BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with a strike range of 800 kilometers. The test firing of the missile is likely to take place by the end of this year. What adverse impact would it have on regional strategic balance and arms race? (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)
There exists a clear disconnect between India’s declared policy of restraint and its relentless pursuit of an ambitious missile programme. The development of Agni V ICBM unmasks India’s real designs of pursuing hegemony and is an exercise in power projection. While every state has a right to its security, the buildup of sophisticated and advanced weapons and delivery systems by India far exceeds its legitimate defence needs. Seen in the backdrop of other acquisitions of advanced capabilities in both the conventional and non-conventional domains, these developments will negatively impact strategic stability in the South Asian region and beyond.
Pakistan will continue to adhere to a policy of restraint and a responsible defence posture. This notwithstanding, Pakistan will not be oblivious to such worrying developments and will take steps that are commensurate with the imperatives of its legitimate defence and security needs.
Reportedly, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh has recently asserted that India has the capacity to ward off its enemies both within its territory, and on the soil of another country! Analysts believe this is a clear message to Pakistan, where India fancies to have conducted surgical strikes before! How do you comment on this statement?
Secondly, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview has recently rejected the notion that India was working hard to isolate Pakistan, and instead appealed to Pakistani public for jointly working towards poverty alleviation etc. In your view, what has prompted this sudden change of heart in India? (Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail Islamabad)
Despite being a disputed territory, India continues to initiate various projects in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir, but is constantly lobbying against the proposed CPEC route through Gilgit Baltistan. Your comments please! (Tariq Mahmood – SAMAA TV)
We do not comment on speculative media reports but irresponsible and provocative statements reflect the belligerent mindsets prevailing in India, which can further exacerbate the already vitiated environment.
Indian falsified claims and belligerent statements are motivated by an exaggerated view of its own capacities and hegemonic designs. India’s mistaken belief and irresponsible rhetoric are fraught with unforeseen dangers in an already volatile strategic environment.
Indian statements of desiring peace on the one hand and posturing about the alleged surgical strike and the intention to repeat them contradict each other. They are also belied by the situation at the LoC and the WB where during the first 3 weeks of 2018 alone, the Indian forces carried out more than 180 ceasefire violations, resulting in the shahadats of 11 innocent civilians, while injuring 48 others. This is a continuation of the unprecedented trend of CFVs in 2017 when Indian forces carried out 1970 ceasefire violations, resulting in the shahadats of more than 50 innocent Pakistani civilians and injuries to more than 200.
Pakistan believes in a peaceful neighborhood, which is essential for peace and development. Cooperation instead of conflict is the only way forward but this needs to be reciprocated by actions not words. Verbal promises of peace accompanied by blood and death in IoK and the LoC and the WB are a paradox which defies logic. There is a need to de-escalate tensions to prevent further loss of life at both sides. In the modern world of today, armed conflict only complicates things.
On Mr. Tariq Mahmood’s question, as stated earlier on several occasions, CPEC is a project of national importance for Pakistan. It entails several infrastructures, road, energy, rail and other projects. Several of the early harvest projects of CPEC have already been implemented and the positive outcome of these is evident to all. India has embarked on a malicious propaganda campaign to malign CPEC by false invocation against CPEC. In addition to not implementing the UNSC Resolution on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute India wants the Kashmiris to live in abject poverty, faraway from economic development. This is not acceptable to Pakistan.
Reportedly, a Pakistani national, Mr. Zulfiqar Ali, on death row in Indonesia, has recently been diagnosed with the last stages of terminal cancer. We are aware that Indonesian President is arriving in Pakistan this week. Would Pakistan make a formal request to Indonesian President to pardon Mr. Zulfiqar Ali, following his terminal illness? (Khalid Mahmood – Expess TV)
Pakistan has already made that request to the Indonesian authorities to award clemency to Mr. Zulfiqar Ali on humanitarian grounds.
Let me give you a brief history of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali’s case and the efforts undertaken by our Mission in Jakarta and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this regard. Mr. Zulfiqar was arrested in Indonesia on 21 November 2004 on charges of drug smuggling. As a result, he was awarded death sentence, and was included in the list of people awaiting execution on 29 July 2016.
Through the relentless efforts of our Mission in Jakarta, after our officials met with all relevant authorities in Jakarta to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment, his execution was stayed by the Indonesian officials on 29 July 2017. Recently, he has been diagnosed with acute liver cancer. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged to pay a significant amount towards his medical treatment in November last year. Currently, he is receiving medical treatment at various hospitals in Jakarta. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali has requested for clemency due to his deteriorating health. Our Mission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is taking all possible measures to take up the matter with relevant authorities in Indonesia.
The Report on 2nd Biennial Review of the GSP plus has been made public. There are media reports that the report has many negative recommendations for Pakistan, which may lead to suspension or withdrawal of its GSP Plus status. Please clarify the contents of the report and share your perspective on the continuation of GSP Plus status for Pakistan!
Secondly, please give a brief account of the benefits that Pakistan has achieved in the last year through GSP Plus Status!
Thirdly, my question pertains to a recent visa controversy about Europeans and Americans coming to Pakistan. Since, Pakistani Embassies are also involved in the issuaance of visas, I understand that this is not a single-Ministry process. What are Foreign Office’s comments on the recent change in visa policy, as we have heard that Americans, British and Europeans will be exempted from visa, or will be affixed visa on arrival to Pakistan? (Mateen Haider – Bol News)
Draft report, which is yet to be finalized has been shared with us. The report does not recommend temporary suspension or withdrawal of GSP Plus for Pakistan. We remain in constant contact with the EU to address the issues raised by them with regard to meeting our international obligations.
GSP Plus works to the benefit of both Pakistan and EU members states. Pakistan’s exports to the EU have increased by almost 38.5 percent since the initiation of the scheme in 2014, while EU exports to Pakistan have also grown by 38 percent. Pakistan sees the GSP Plus scheme as a constructive engagement for the betterment of its economy and promoting its economic agenda. The scheme also has positive synergy with the Government’s own social agenda.
Your last question pertains to Ministry of Interior.
Can you give an exact number of Afghan refugees currently residing in Pakistan and what steps have been taken so far for their repatriation? Second, once these Afghan refugees go back to Afghanistan, how would you ensure that they do not return back? (Shahzad Mirza – Royal News)
Please refer your query about Afghan refugees to the Ministry of SAFRON.
Regarding your second question, Pakistan has always aspired for an early, dignified, sustainable and complete repatriation of Afghan refugees. We also believe that it is very important that Afghanistan and the international community invest in the creation of ”pull factors” for incentivizing the return of refugees through, for example, provision of homes and employment, and take appropriate steps for smooth reintegration of the returned refugees into the Afghan society.
What are your comments on India’s recent inclusion into the Australia Group, now that it has become one step closer to NSG’s membership? (Naveed Akbar – Dunya News)
On 19 January 2018, India was given membership of the Australia Group. Earlier, due to US support, it has already gained a waiver on civil-nuclear program, and has also been a member of Wassenaar Arrangement and MTCR. Pakistan is not a member of any of these groups. How do you see this development, particularly in the context that India’s credentials for inclusion into NSG have been significantly enhanced? Second, China is also not a part of any of these groups. Is there a joint policy between China and Pakistan in this regard, or is it Pakistan’s own internal decision, especially when Pakistan has strong credentials for inclusion into MTCR? (Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)
I will give a detailed reply on this next time.
First, Free Karachi campaign has initiated on taxis as well as newspaper supplements in various parts of Europe and North America. What efforts are being undertaken in this regard? Second, it has been five weeks since the family of Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev visited Pakistan. What will the shoe report be shared with the public? (Anas Malick – Republic TV)
Regarding your second question, the report will be shared at an appropriate time.
Regarding your first question, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Missions abroad have forcefully raised the matter with all concerned authorities, as the matter directly impinges upon the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.
Pakistani Government issued a fatwa banning suicide bombings as unlawful (haram) but we still await the Afghan ‘fatwa’ against TTP and its affiliates. The Afghan President meanwhile is indulging in a war of words with Pakistan regarding the fatwa. Please share the details of the edict (fatwa). Also, can you confirm that the fatwa agreement was done on mutual basis during Army Chief’s visit to Kabul last October? (Namra – PTV News)
In a landmark event, 1829 highly qualified and revered Pakistani religious scholars from all schools of thoughts issued a Fatwa (religious decree) against suicide bombing and terrorism. The Fatwa clearly declares that terrorism and suicide attacks are ”Haraam” – absolutely prohibited as per the teachings of Islam. It declares armed struggle against the state, its government or armed forces ”illegal”. The Ulema have pronounced that ”no individual or group has the authority to declare Jihad and wage war”.
It also forbids Pakistani citizens from violating geographical boundaries in the name of helping other armed groups and struggles outside Pakistan. It goes onto prohibit the use of Pakistani territory for the propagation of any kind of terrorism, intellectual and practical training of terrorists and recruitment and undertaking of terrorist activities in other countries.
We believe it is a landmark in Pakistan’s efforts to fight extremism and terrorism and will greatly help in the true interpretation of the religious texts, reduction in violence and denying recruits to the forces of evil.
Afghanistan may, on its part, seek a similar Fatwa from its Ulema. The application of Fatwas is universal and not restricted to geographical limits.
Firstly, since the UN monitoring team is currently in Pakistan, will it be given access to Hafiz Saeed?
Secondly, since the deadline for the Afghan refugees’ repatriation of 31 January is fast approaching, what has been decided on their fate? (Rabia Pir – VOA Deewa Radio)
The UN Monitoring Team has a particular mandate of UN sanctions regime related to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1267.
Please consult SAFRON for your second question.
Please share the reasons of recent closure of Radio Mashaal! (Naveed Saddique – Dawn News)
Pakistan fully respects the right of freedom of opinion and expression in accordance with national and international laws. A large number of private channels both on Radio and Television are functioning in Pakistan and enriching the debate on domestic and international issues.
The decision to terminate the broadcast of Mashaal Radio was taken by the Ministry of Interior after it was found that the Radio Mashaal was operating without the requisite mandatory license from the concerned authorities.
Many local newspapers of today have reported that yesterday’s drone strike was carried out in Orakzai agency instead of Kurram agency. US Embassy in Islamabad has also issued a statement. Can you please apprise us of the real situation? (Shahid Maitla – ARY News)
I have already given a detailed reply on the drone strike.
Can you confirm the reports that Afghan Taliban recently came to Pakistan and met officials of various Ministries? (Kamran Haider – Bloomberg)
I have no information regarding this visit.
A local English Daily has recently reported the alleged involvement of our Embassy officials in Bangkok in issuing Pakistani passports to foreign nationals. Do you confirm this report?(Khalid Mahmood – Express TV)
The news story that you have just mentioned, quotes Mr. Ayazuddin, who was the former incharge of the MRP section in our Embassy and has been repatriated to Pakistan on charges of sexual harassment,. The proof of this has already been provided to the Ministry of Interior.
Upon ascertaining details of the incident involving Mr. Ayazuddin, that had invariably brought a bad name to our Mission in Bangkok and Pakistan, since it was widely covered by the press and social media there, the Mission barred Mr. Ayazuddin from entering the Embassy premises. The Mission also feared that the accused would try to deliberately misplace or damage official records or equipment of the MRP Section in retaliation.
The Mission soon learnt that Mr. Ayaz was encouraging passport applicants to send petitions to high offices in Pakistan and also tried to organize a demonstration in front of the Embassy. Upon his return to Pakistan, he has initiated a smear campaign in the media against our Embassy in Bangkok, which is highly deplorable and unacceptable.
Last modified: November 22, 2019
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