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(2018-03-29) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum

First, let me give a brief round-up of the activities on the foreign policy front:

The Pakistan Day was celebrated on 23 March 2018 in Islamabad and by all our Missions abroad. Our Missions organized flag hoisting ceremonies and receptions as part of the celebrations. Various buildings including the Burj-e- Khalifa and the Bosphorous bridge were lit up as part of the celebrations. His Excellency, Maithripala Sirisena, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka visited Pakistan on the occasion of Pakistan Day from 22nd – 24th March 2018. He was the Guest of Honour at the Pakistan Day parade on 23rd March 2018. Sri Lankan President held a meeting with the President of Pakistan. Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also met with the President of Sri Lankan which the entire spectrum of bilateral relations was discussed. The Prime Minister briefed the Sri Lankan President on issues of regional and international importance. It was agreed to further diversify and enhance relations especially in the realm of trade and people to people contacts. The Prime Minister stated that Pakistan was committed to the SAARC process and urged the President of Sri Lanka to play his role for early convening of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad.

The Prime Minister also briefed the President about the continuing atrocities being committed by India in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir against innocent Kashmiris. Three MoUs were signed during the visit to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation for capacity building of diplomats, public policy research and training of civil servants.

Leading the Pakistan delegation to the Tashkent Conference on Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif emphasized the need of a regional approach for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the region. The Foreign Minister said that Pakistan had consistently stressed the early resolution of Afghan conflict through a political settlement. He also stated that bringing Taliban to the table and establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan was a shared responsibility of the international community. Khawaja Asif reiterated Pakistan’s support for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s national peace and reconciliation plan, unveiled during Kabul process meeting on 28February and his offer of peace talks to the Taliban under an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. He said that there was a need to put collective pressure on Taliban to avail this opportunity to shun violence and join the peace process. The Foreign Minister also expressed concern over the unchecked proliferation of Daesh and the phenomenal increase in drug production in Afghanistan. On the margins of the Tashkent Conference, the Foreign Minister called on the Uzbek President, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Khawaja Asif also held bilateral meetings with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cevasoglu, the EU High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, the Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Abdildaev Erlan and the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong.

The Indian occupation forces martyred five innocent Kashmiris including Shafat Hussain Wani in Islamabad, Budgam and Kupwara areas. The miseries of the people in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir have increased every day, as the Indian occupation forces continue to terrorize the innocent civilians and to damage the properties without any provocation. We condemn the Indian excesses and call upon the world human rights defenders to stand up for the Kashmiris in IOK.

We have seen reports regarding the addition of seven Pakistani entities to the Entity List maintained by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the US Department of Commerce. The entities in question are private sector companies. Being added to the Entity List means that these companies will be subject to additional licensing requirements for access to certain US-origin items. We shall be seeking information from the US as well as these companies to better understand the circumstances which led to the listing. Pakistan believes that there should be no undue restrictions on the access to dual-use items and technologies for peaceful and legitimate purposes. Pakistan has always been transparent and willing to engage with the suppliers of the dual-use items, including from the US, to extend guarantees regarding non-diversion through end-user assurances as well as arrangements for post-shipment verifications. Pakistan has arranged for such post-ship verifications by certain other international suppliers of dual-use items to their complete satisfaction. It is well-known that the Entity List maintained by the US Department of Commerce is a dynamic list where entities and businesses from several countries, including from NSG member states, are added and removed based on the national technical determination made by the relevant US authorities. As such, we caution against unnecessarily politicizing the issue. We reject the attempts by Pakistan’s detractors to exploit these listings to cast aspersions on Pakistan’s non-proliferation credentials. Such attempts give rise to doubts about the motivation and timing of these measures which will be seen as being politically-driven.

Pakistan strongly condemns the Houthi ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia on 25 March 2018. Pakistan commends the Government of Saudi Arabia for destroying the missiles and limiting the casualties. The Government and people of Pakistan reiterate their full support and solidarity with the leadership, the government and people of Saudi Arabia against any threats to its territorial integrity and against the Haramain Sharifain.

Pakistan strongly condemns the heinous and reprehensible Suicide attack that targeted innocent worshippers at a Mosque in Herat, 25 March 2018. We are grieved at the loss of precious and innocent lives in this brutal act of terrorism. Such sacrilegious acts that target places of worships including mosques are highly condemnable. We express our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.

In an impressive ceremony on 25 March 2018, Pakistan handed over state of the art medical equipment for Nishter Kidney Centre, Jalalabad, Afghanistan to Governor of Jalalabad. The ceremony was attended by officials from Afghan Ministry of Public Health and Foreign Office. The Nishter Kidney Center is a modern medical facility that was constructed by Pakistan under the assistance package for development in Afghanistan. This year, Pakistan provided complete medical equipment, worth US $ 5 million to the hospital. In addition, around 75 doctors & technicians were trained in PIMS Hospital Islamabad last year, who will be a great help for Afghanistan in running this hospital. In April, 2018 Pakistan will provide specialized training to another 42 Afghan doctors and technicians at the Institute of Kidney Diseases in Hayatabad Medical Complex, Peshawar.

The Pakistan delegation led by Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah, Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters (PCIW) is visiting India for the 114th meeting of the PCIW from 29-31 March 2018 to discuss issues related to the Indus Waters Treaty.

The people and Government of Pakistan are deeply grieved to learn about the tragic fire incident in the shopping mall in Kemerovo, Russian Federation, resulting in loss of more than 50 precious lives and injuries to many. We convey our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and pray for early recovery of the injured. The people and Government of Pakistan share the grief of the people and the Government of the Russian Federation and stand by them in this moment of grief.

We congratulate the nine Pakistanis, who have made it to the Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list for the year 2018. These include Mr. Muhammad Asad Raza, Mr. Abrahim Ali Shaha, Mr. Muhammad Shaheer Niazi, Mr. Adnan Shaffi, Mr. Adeel Shaffi, Ms. Sadia Bashir, Mr. Hamza Farrukh, Mr. Syed Faizan Hussain and Ms. Momina Mustehsan who have done exceptional work in the fields of Health, Science, Commerce, Engineering, Information Technology and Social Activism. Pakistanis constitute one third of the whole list showcasing the capability and innovation of our youth who shine in a diverse array of fields. The whole nation is proud of them.

Now the Floor is open for Questions

Question

The international community is increasingly linking peace in Afghanistan to peace and stability in Pakistan and is urging Pakistan to bring Taliban to the negotiating table. My question is, how much leverage does Pakistan still have vis-a-vis the Taliban?

Second, you mentioned in your opening remarks about Pakistan’s reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan. In your view, how far has Pakistan been successful in convincing Afghanistan of its positive intentions towards bringing lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan? (Syed Muhammad Yasin – Business Plus)

Answer

Pakistan has always supported an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process in Afghanistan. It has reiterated that only through political reconciliation, wherein all warring factions begin a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue with the Afghan Government, can lasting peace be achieved in Afghanistan. We have supported the Afghanistan related initiatives in this context. Our policy on Afghanistan remains unchanged. During our NSA’s recent visit to Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani invited Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to Afghanistan at a convenient time, an offer that he has accepted. It is a welcoming development, and part of our continuous dialogue and engagement with Afghanistan and the international community for a lasting solution to the Afghan problem. It is true that peace in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to Pakistan’s peace and stability.

Question

Indian media is reporting that Pakistan is increasing its troops along LoC after the robust posture adopted by the Indian Government towards Pakistan. Do you confirm this? In your view, will this military preparedness lead to an escalation of sorts on the eastern border?

Second, reportedly, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Alice Wells is visiting Pakistan on 28-30 March 2018. Can you confirm? What is the purpose of her visit?

Third, Malala Yousafzai is in town. Is this an official or a private visit? Please share details of her visit! (Essa Naqvi – Dunya News)

Supplementary Question

Will Malala Yousafzai be interacting with the media during her visit? Also, what activities will she undertake during her stay in Pakistan? (Amjad Ali – PTV)

Answer

Regarding your first question, the unprecedented ceasefire violations by Indian occupation forces continue from last year into 2018. Indian escalation at the LoC and the WB are attempts to divert the attention of the international community from the Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiris and the rapidly deteriorating situation in IoK.

Regarding your second question, the meeting between Ambassador Alice Wells and Foreign Secretary took place in the Foreign Office this morning. This is her second visit to Pakistan in 2018. The aim of the visit is to review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, FATF etc, and discuss regional situation in Afghanistan in the wake of President Trump’s South Asia & Afghanistan policy. Ambassador Wells is due to meet a few other senior officials in the next few days. The two countries are maintaining regular engagement to address the common challenges and take the relationship forward.

The Pakistani forces have exerted great restraint but this restraint should not be construed as a sign of weakness. Any Indian misadventure on the LoC and Working Boundary can lead to a strategic miscalculation. While we advise restraint to the Indian side, our military is ready to give a befitting response. We shall choose the time and place of our response.

Question

Reportedly, Prime Minister of Bangladesh has said that the people of the country need to punish those who still love Pakistan. She further alleged that Pakistan would be happy if Bangladesh becomes a failed state. What are your comments on the statement?

Second, reportedly, during his recent visit to the US, Afghan NSA has once again criticized Pakistan for the problems faced by Afghanistan. This is in clear contrast to his earlier initiative of bridging the trust gap with Pakistan. Afghan officials have a knack of maligning Pakistan on foreign soils. Your comments please! (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)

Supplementary Questions

Afghan media has reported massive shelling from the Pakistani side along the Pak-Afghan border. Do you confirm this? Is this in response to any attacks from the Afghan side? (Shabbir Waghra – PTV World)

Afghan media has reported that our Cd’A in Kabul was summoned over shelling from Pakistani side on Pak-Afghan border. Can you confirm? Please share details! (Anas Malick – Republic TV)

Russia has once again blamed the US for the rise of Daesh in Afghanistan, and has called for an investigation into the ‘unmarked helicopters’ landing in Afghanistan. Did this matter come up during the recent Tashkent conference? What is Pakistan’s position on this?

Second, is Pakistan satisfied with the efforts made by the US and international community in curbing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan? (Rashida Sial – Abb Tak)

Answer

Responding to Mr. Paracha’s first question, Such provocative statements are highly regrettable. Pakistan believes that such statements hamper the letter and spirit of the Tripartite Agreement of 1974.

The people of both the countries are linked through common bonds of religion, culture and above all humanity.

Pakistan strongly maintains that peaceful coexistence with forward looking vision is the best path forward to ensure progress and prosperity for both countries as well as the whole region.

Regarding your second question, we have seen reports about Afghan NSA’s remarks in the US. We strongly reject these allegations and such statements negatively reflect on our bilateral relationship.

Pakistan had welcomed President Ghani’s vision for peace and supported his offer of peace talks with the Taliban. Afghan leadership, including NSA Atmar had appreciated and thanked Pakistan for supporting the Afghan peace and reconciliation process, during our NSA’s visit to Kabul on 18 March. Pakistan has been urging Taliban through it public statements, as well as, private messaging to join the peace process. This, we feel, is a shared responsibility. Pakistan should not be singled out in this regard.

On Mr. Waghara’s question, as you are aware the terrorist groups including TTP, JuA, LI and Daesh etc have established sanctuaries on Afghan side of the Pak-Afghan border. These terrorist groups are involved in undertaking cross-border raids on our military posts. Our border troops only open fire when they are fired upon and the response is always directed at the point of origin and is proportionate. We have shared the locations of the safe heavens of these groups with Afghan and the US authorities on many occasions, however, our concerns have not yet been fully addressed. This issue has been addressed in some locations where Afghanistan has established its border posts and deployed troops.

On the question of rise of Daesh in Afghanistan, we have been consistently raising serious concerns about the rising footprint of Daesh in Afghanistan. Concentration of Daesh along the borders with Pakistan, Central Asian Republics, Iran and China further alarms us of its negative implications for Afghanistan, Pakistan and regional security. Daesh has been involved in cross-border raids at Pakistani military posts. We have, on many occasions, shared evidence of their involvement in cross border raids and location of their safe heavens on Afghan territory with Afghanistan and RSM and urged them to take effective action to root-out Daesh sanctuaries on Afghan territory.

There has been a phenomenal rise in the growth of poppy cultivation and drug production in Afghanistan, which is fueling the war economy in Afghanistan by empowering terrorists and extremist networks. It is an issue of major concern for Pakistan.

Question

Reportedly, a US-India meeting on counter-terrorism was held on 27 March 2018. There was no mention of Daesh in the statement issued after the meeting. What are your comments on this? (Majid Jarar – News One)

Answer

I have already spoken about Pakistan’s concerns over the rise of Daesh in an earlier response.

Question

What is the update on Pakistan-India humanitarian proposals of exchange of prisoners, sending doctors and revival of judicial committee? (Tariq Mahmood – SAMAA TV)

Answer

As you are aware, Pakistan concurred to the Indian humanitarian proposal regarding:

a) Exchange of lists of prisoners above 70 years of age, women and mentally challenged
b) Visit of the judicial committee
c) Visit of medical teams of both countries

Additionally, Pakistan also proposed exchanging lists of children below 18 years and prisoners below 60 years. Response on these is awaited from the Indian side. All this is being processed by the M/o Interior from whom you may obtain further details.

Question

Is there any possibility of creating a new regional bloc of Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, as suggested by Iranian scholar and former Foreign Minister Mr. Kamal Kharazai during his visit to Pakistan? (Kausar Lodhi – Prime News)

Answer

I am not aware of any such development.

Question

India continues to ban Pakistani artists from working in India. How do you see the contrast with the Karachi film festival in which many Indian artists will participate?

Second, concerning the recent harassment of Pakistani diplomats in India, will Pakistan take the matter up at the UN or relevant forums? Any update on whether the harassment is still continuing? (Mateen Haider – Freelance Journalist)

Answer

On your first question, you have rightly pointed out the continuing ban on Pakistani artists in India is regrettable. However Pakistan prides itself on being a tolerant modern country which encourages and promotes people to people contacts – we believe that art and culture can, and should enrich societies, instead of being used as political tools which inhibit and curtail.

On your second question, I have never said that the matter would be raised at the UN. All efforts are being made to work out these matters.

Question

Last year in an inhumane measure Indian army Major Gogoi tied a Kashmiri youth to his Jeep and used him as a human shield – now we see media reports of T shirts depicting this despicable use of human shields being sold with impunity in India – what are your comments? (Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail Islamabad)

Answer

There can be no justification of the use of human shields. The crass insensitivity evident by the sale of such t shirts making a mockery of human rights reflects the falsehood behind incredible India.

The international community needs to put words to action and urge India to put an immediate halt to such acts and ensure an expedited resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute.

Question

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has recently admitted that billions of dollars were spent to export Wahabisim to regional countries, through a well thought-out strategy. Since Pakistan has been the biggest victim of this strategy, will Pakistan demand an apology from Saudi Arabia for the havoc these policies played in changing once and for all the cultural and sectarian fabric of Pakistan? (Syed Mohsin Raza – Asas Group of Publications)

Answer

I have not seen the relevant statement. However, let me reiterate that Pakistan is undertaking concerted efforts to wipe out terrorism from its soil through the National Action Plan, which was agreed with consensus by all of political parties and stakeholders in Pakistan. The implementation of this plan is ongoing. Our counter-terrorism gains are already in front of the world.

Question

Reportedly, Pakistan will give Gilgit Baltistan to China on lease for 50 years. Can you confirm?

Second, what is the update on the Chinese wives of Pakistanis being stopped from meeting their families? (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)

Answer

Your first question is speculative and baseless.

On your second question, all matters of concern between Pakistan and China are being dealt under the bilateral context.

Question

Reportedly, the German President during his recent visit to India has called for protecting religious tolerance and defending free speech, during his address to a university in New Delhi, conveying a veiled message to rising intolerance in India. Your comments please! (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal – Daily Kashmir Post)

Answer

Indian treatment of minorities and the growing extremism and religious intolerance rampant in Indian society is not a secret. International human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have sharply criticized India on the same. Rising intolerance in India is a threat not only to India itself but the entire region. The policy of divisiveness being pursued in India is to the detriment of India itself.

Question

US has put sanctions on seven Pakistani companies. Will it hurt Pakistan’s nuclear program? (Salman – Financial Media Group)

Answer

We have issued a detailed press release, available on our website and I have also mentioned about it in my opening remarks.

Question

Yesterday, our National Security Adviser, addressing a conference, said that India should leave enmity aside and join CPEC. Was this a policy statement or his personal views?

Second, DG ISPR in his press briefing of yesterday has said that they have captured 21 suicide bombers all trained in Afghanistan, 9 of which are also Afghan nationals. Will we raise this matter up with the Afghan side? (Anas Malick – Republic TV)

Answer

Please consult the Offices of the National Security Adviser and DG ISPR for your queries.

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