Media Briefing|

(2014-06-26) Opening Remarks
There are reports in media about some Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka who need help but the Foreign Office has been callous and indifferent to their plight and that I allegedly said that these people are there by bad mouthing the country so they don’t deserve any assistance. That is wrong. I tried to explain the process and the issues involved in dealing with asylum seekers. Asylum seekers obtain asylum on the basis of claiming persecution, discrimination or threat to life in their country of origin. Although in most cases and whenever possible, our Missions help them. As regards the people in Sri Lanka, according to our information there are about 75 families under an agreement of 2005 between UNHCR and the Sri Lankan government. You have to understand that neither the UNHCR nor the Sri Lankan government would share any information about Pakistani asylum seekers with the High Commission authorities because of the principle of confidentiality and privacy clause applied by the UNHCR. So this is the background of the issue.

Now the floor is open for Questions

Question
I have a question on same issue according to the editorial on Dawn there are right now 140 asylum seekers. According to Sri Lankan news reports after the meeting of the Sri Lankan President and the President of the India these asylum seekers will be soon deported to Pakistan. In this case has the Government of Sri Lanka contacted the Government of Pakistan?

Answer
The two governments are in contact.

Question
There was an AFP report from Australia that Australian government is also considering to deport hundreds of asylum seekers. Reportedly, they have offered them 3000 dollars and the plight of the Pakistani asylum seekers is not good?

Secondly, the security situation in Pakistan forces thousands of Pakistanis to flee from Pakistan. Particularly you might have seen the Hazara Community in Quetta, they have been trying to enter in Australia so in such condition when there are other non-state actors who are quite active in killing religious minorities then what is the SOP regarding the Pakistanis who go abroad? Are they supposed to be in touch with Missions and whether Missions are supposed to provide them moral and legal assistance?

Answer
Normally, when they seek asylum they would be in contact with the host government and UNHCR. As I said UNHCR and the host government would not provide any information because UNHCR has confidentiality clause. I may share with you that most of these asylum seekers privately come to the Embassies and they are given whatever assistance is possible. I am not aware of the specific cases in Australia but when the ground on which a person has got asylum has been removed then they are asked to go back. I may also add here that most of them are may not even be Pakistanis.

Question
Pakistan is being used as a jumping pad for onward illegal travel to other countries to seek asylum by other nationals especially the Afghans and more specifically the Hazara Community from Bamyan Province of Afghanistan. From Quetta they travel to Australia via Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Thousands of them have died in boats sinking incidents.

Answer
Yes, this is an issue. The reasons why people move, at one level we do discuss to other countries, while there is more global connectivity, people can easily travel from one part of the world to another. On the other hand, we can see that it is becoming more difficult for people, particularly from the developing countries to travel and work there then it was 20 or 30 years ago. Hence people resort to illegal means of travelling. We are also aware of the difficulties. We also know that some people may acquire fake documents and travel through Pakistan to other places. This is an issue that we are very much aware of and our agencies like FIA are taking steps to curb it. FIA may give you more details on specifically how they are tackling this issue.

Question
We sent a Special Envoy to Kabul Mr. Mahmood Khan Achakzai, accompanied by Foreign Secretary to Afghanistan. Today, a high level delegation from Afghan side is here. What has been the particular request from Pakistan when we sent our Special Envoy to Kabul and what is the agenda of their visit today? Is there something connected to North Waziristan Agency operation?

Answer
We did issue a Press Release on the visit. The purpose of the Special Envoy’s visit to Afghanistan was to seek cooperation in management of the border as we have launched an operation to root out terrorism from this area. We expect Afghanistan to take measures on the borders so that these terrorists do not find sanctuaries on Afghan territory. The visit of Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser is again in the context of carrying this discussion forward.

Question
US state department has included four Lashker-e Taiba linked organizations and two individuals in the list of the specially designated global terrorists entities and they have also froze their resources in America. I need your comments on this please.

Answer
Taking actions against any individual or entity becomes obligatory on Pakistan if United Nations lists them and puts them on the list of designated entities. An action by any state individually does not have any bearing or obligation on Pakistan. I would have to get further details about whether there are any charges against individuals in Pakistan or whether we have taken any actions against them. I don’t have any details as yet.

Question
My question pertains to recent interaction between Pakistani and Afghan officials. What has been the response of Afghan authorities to the request that Pakistani officials have made?
Apart from that, the visit of Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, is Pakistani government going to take up the issue of Mullah Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan?

Answer
You would recall that when the two rounds of elections took place in Afghanistan, Pakistan took extraordinary measures to secure the borders with additional deployment and controlled movement, without hindering the travel of Afghans who wanted to go across and vote. Pakistan’s help has been acknowledged by the international community. We are conducting an operation to eliminate terrorism and it is in Afghanistan’s own interest to cooperate with Pakistan and our expectation is that Afghanistan would. Hence the discussions are continuing today in Islamabad.

Question
India has started the work on Phase 3 project on Baglihar dam, what is the stance of Pakistan on this?

Answer
There is a judgment on Baghlihar. It essentially puts restrictions on India not to construct any dam that would stem or reduce the flow of water to Pakistan which is Pakistan’s right as the lower riparian.

Question
There is a report about the resumption of composite dialogue between Pakistan and India. Can you confirm that at which stage this composite dialogue is?

The second question is about the outcome of Afghanistan elections. Pakistan has always supported these elections. Now there are reports that both the candidates, namely, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are objecting on the outcome of these elections. What would be the Pakistan’s reaction if Abduallah Abduallah denies accepting the election result?

Answer
Elections in Afghanistan were generally very peaceful and we welcomed that. We understand discussions are taking place to resolve the issue. We hope that this matter will be resolved amicably and Afghanistan would move ahead with the process.

Question
Recently there was a statement by the EU, which called upon the Pakistani government in the backdrop of Farzana murder case in Lahore that the government of Pakistan should ensure the implementation of all such laws that would grant individual rights to people in Pakistan irrespective of caste, religion and sects etc. Can you tell us that how this condition would effect on GSP plus status that Pakistan was granted?

Answer
GSP or no GSP, we know that protection and security of our people and their rights and fundamental freedoms is our responsibility. Pakistan has taken measures to ensure that. Apart from a very precious life being lost, whenever such an incident happens, it brings bad name to Pakistan and to our society, culture and religion. Pakistan’s constitution and Islam, for that matter any religion, do not in any way condone this kind of violence. As regards the GSP-plus, well, we have an on-going engagement with EU. Yesterday in EU-Pakistan Joint Commission, we discussed all aspects of relations including human rights. The GSP review would be in 2016, hopefully on many of these issues we would have moved along by that time.

Question
Has the UAE government officially protested over the diversion of Emirates airline from Islamabad to Lahore?

Answer
I am not aware of that.

Question
I would like to draw your attention towards the fierce fighting going on between Afghan forces and Taliban in Helmand province. There are reports that Pakistan has taken pre-emptive security measures in Balochistan and bordering areas of Iran. Is there any request from Afghanistan to seal the border?

Answer
Not through Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You may like to check with ISPR if they have received any particular information in the context of what is happening in Afghanistan

Question
The IDP issue is quite serious and a number of International Organizations are providing relief assistance. My question is, has any foreign government contacted foreign office and any other government department to give any relief or assistance? And if there has been any contact would you give us the details about those countries which are offering assistance?

Answer
The question of temporarily dislocated population from North Waziristan is something that we, as a nation, have to deal with. They are our people and they had to leave their home because of the military operations which is again taking place for safety and security of all of us. The media has a particular responsibility to mobilize the public. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has donated one day salary both at the Headquarters and in our Missions abroad, adding up to around Rupees 4.5 million. The Foreign Office Women Association has also contributed about Rs. 500,000. This is not much but it is a gesture of support for the welfare of these brave people. As regards the foreign assistance, we have not asked for it and I am not aware of any decision as yet that we would be launching an appeal or asking the UN Agencies or any other government to get involved.

Question
Coming back to the first question about Pakistanis in Sri Lanka what has been the assessment of our Mission whether they are the people who feel insecure here or they are from some minority or what is the cause of their movement to Sri Lanka and asking for asylum? Is there any assessment given by our Mission?

Answer
I think I have already answered this question. I don’t think it is a homogenous group or represents any specific segment of society.

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