(2018-02-15) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]
Bismillah IrRehman NirRahim Assalaam Alaikum
Pakistan strongly rejects the allegations of certain Indian police and defence officials, and media insinuations in connection with the reported attack on Sunjwan camp in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. In a well established pattern, Indian occupation forces launch false flag operation while Indian officials begin making irresponsible statements and leveling unfounded allegations, even before any proper investigation in any incident has been initiated. A particular segment in the Indian media runs with their clear intention to malign Pakistan and whips up public frenzy. We are confident that the world community would take due cognizance of India’s smear campaign against Pakistan and the deliberate creation of war hysteria.
Moreover, these tactics are also aimed at diverting attention from the India state terrorism in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The brutalization of peaceful, unarmed Kashmiris through harassment, incarceration, disappearances, torture, extra- judicial killings, sham trials and summary executions are well documented internationally. The valiant people of IoK, however, remain resilient in the face of all these hardships, as they pursue their legitimate right to self-determination.
On the recent comments of the Defence Minister of India, it is stated that the now familiar Indian tendency of apportioning blame on Pakistan, without concrete evidence, is regrettable. The Indian allegations are premature and inopportune, especially as India itself admits that the operation still continued and investigations had just started, when these comments were made. We have repeatedly seen India arrogating to itself the role of judge, jury and executioner. The reflex assignment of blame and smear campaigns, based on unfounded allegations, carry no credibility.
More deplorable is the threatening tone of the Indian comments that achieves nothing, but further vitiates the already tense environment marked by unprecedented ceasefire violations by India on the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary. Pakistan is fully committed and capable of defending itself against any act of aggression. We expect the international community to take cognizance of the belligerent and repeated Indian statements against Pakistan, which are not only against international law but also threatens regional peace and security.
On the unfounded Indian allegations about “Pakistan refusing visas to 173 Katas Raj pilgrims”, it is stated that these are completely baseless. Pakistan had made all the arrangements for the visit of the pilgrims, who, regrettably, were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi due to non – issuance of NOC by the Ministry of External Affairs of India. Recently, India has also denied the visits of Sikh pilgrims, followed by that of Zaireens from Pakistan, and now Katas Raj Pilgrims, the opportunity to participate in their religious festivals. The Indian actions run counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and an obstruction for the people to people contacts. Such steps violate the basic human right to religious freedoms and are indicative of the escalatory ladder on which the Government of India has embarked. These are against the spirit of peace and tranquility that Pakistan has been trying to promote.
His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan visited Pakistan on 8-9 February 2018. During his visit he met the President Mr. Mamnoon Hussain and the Prime Minister Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. His Majesty King Abdullah II held delegation level talks with the Prime Minister during which the two sides reviewed bilateral relations and exchanged views on ways to further expand these relations in all areas of mutual interest.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif is in Tunisia, on the invitation of Tunisian Foreign Minister, to attend the 9th Session of the Pakistan-Tunisia Joint Commission in Tunis from 14-15 February 2018. The meetings will review the bilateral political relations and discuss avenues to further expand the economic relations between both the countries. A number of bilateral agreements of cooperation in the fields of justice, banking, industrial and agriculture research, higher education and cooperation between small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are expected to be signed during the Joint Commission meeting.
H.E. Mr. Abdul Aziz Kamilov, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan, along with a four-member delegation, visited Islamabad on 12 February 2018. During the visit, the Foreign Minister met with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Khawaja Muhammad Asif. He conveyed a letter from the Uzbek President, addressed to President Mamnoon Hussain, inviting him for a conference entitled ”Peace Process and Cooperation in the field of Security and Regional Cohesion”, scheduled to be held in Tashkent on 26-27 March 2018.
The people and the Government of Pakistan are deeply saddened at the tragic crash of a Russian passenger aircraft, resulting in the loss of seventy-one precious lives. We convey our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. The people and the Government of Pakistan share the pain of the people and the Government of the Russian Federation and stand by them in this hour of grief.
Pakistan does not support any move by foreign states to interfere in the internal affairs of Maldives and influence its upcoming elections. As enshrined in the UN Charter, non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries has always been the key principle of our foreign policy. Pakistan expects that other countries would also adhere to this principle of the UN Charter, in view of ongoing political situation in Maldives. We believe that the internal affairs of Maldives should be solved internally in consultation with all the stakeholders. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Maldives should be respected by all.
Eleven (11) dead bodies of Pakistanis of the tragic boat incident in Libya arrived at Benazir Bhutto International Airport yesterday, and were handed over to their relatives for transportation to their respective home towns. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with other authorities, has borne the entire expenses of this process. I once again urge the media to take up this matter of illegal crossing of borders effectively and forcefully, so that our people are educated about its perils. It was very depressing and unfortunate to receive those dead bodies.
Now the Floor is open for Questions
During the recent visit of King of Jordan to Pakistan, we saw that the Jordanian flag printed on the panaflexes displayed around the city was wrong. Was it the fault of Prime Minister’s Office or the Foreign Office?
Secondly, at the conclusion of the recent talks on Afghanistan on 9-10 February 2018, there was no joint declaration, but only a tweet issued from your side. What was the subject matter of the discussion during this meeting? (Rashida Sial – Abb Tak)
On your first question, yes you are right, there was a misprinting of the flag on the posters. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is responsible for printing the posters. The draft sent from Foreign Office had no problems. The CDA has been notified to correct the error for future purposes.
On your second question, on 3rd February 2018, the Foreign Secretary led an interagency delegation to Kabul to participate in the first meeting of the APAPPS. The two sides engaged positively to finalize the APAPPS for making the five working groups operational, as envisioned in the APAPPS, for the comprehensive bilateral engagement. Some progress was made in this respect and the two sides agreed to continue their discussions on the document in Islamabad on 09-10th February 2018.
An Afghan delegation headed by their Deputy Foreign Minister visited Islamabad on 09-10th February, for further deliberations on APAPPS. During this round progress was made in the areas of political, diplomatic and refugee issues, however, there were difference of views on certain areas. In our view, these areas can be addressed, and will be addressed during the next meeting.
Reportedly, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting is going to take place next week in Paris. What measures Pakistan has taken to avoid being included in the ”grey list”? What are your comments on the drum beating by Indian media regarding Pakistan prior to FATF meeting in Paris? Secondly, in its recent Worldwide Threat Assessment Report, US has referred to Pakistan as a regional security risk, projecting that its nuclear and military buildup will imperil the security of its neighbors. Conspicuously, India is not to be found in this report. Your comments please! (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)
Supplementary Questions Regarding FATF, we have seen rather suspicious moves from US, UK, Germany, France and India to once again drag Pakistan into the ”Grey List” despite Pakistan’s satisfactory performance in counter-terrorism and money laundering matters. Don’t you think that such moves are discriminatory in nature? Do you also see Indian lobbying at work to punish Pakistan through FATF? (Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)
Pakistan was initially in the ‘grey list’ of FATF. At present, what is our current status and how do you see our future in FATF? (Anwar Abbas – Waqt News)
Let me first respond to all the questions on FATF. The FATF is dealt with by the Ministry of Finance and its allied departments and questions related to it may be directed to them. However, I can brief you on the fundamentals.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an international body established in 1989 on the initiative of the G7. The primary aim of FATF was to set standards to combat money laundering. In 2001, its mandate was expanded to include countering terrorist financing. Every country goes through a peer based evaluation process called ”Mutual Evaluation” for monitoring of compliance with FATF standards. Since we are not a member of FATF, Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation is conducted by Asia Pacific Group (APG). FATF can take punitive measures against any country for non-compliance by issuing a public statement (black/grey list).
Based on Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation in 2009, FATF identified ”strategic deficiencies” in Pakistan’s AML/CFT regime. In February 2012, Pakistan was listed in FATF’s Public Statement i.e. ”grey list”. To overcome these deficiencies, Pakistan agreed to implement FATF Action Plan. As a consequence, the State Bank of Pakistan introduced new rules and guidelines on CFT/AML. Stand-alone legislation on Money Laundering was also enacted by the Parliament. Moreover, an operationally independent and administrative Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) was established under the AML law with the sole mandate of receiving, analysing and disseminating Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs). In June 2015, after strenuous efforts, the implementation of the Action Plan was completed and Pakistan was de-listed from FATF’s Public Statement. After the exit, the FATF referred Pakistan to APG due to residuary concerns regarding implementation of UNSCR 1267 sanctions on some entities i.e. (Lashkar-e-Tayibah, JuD, and FIF).
Pakistan has been continuously reporting to APG on these ”residual concerns”. Our latest report was submitted to APG on 6 January 2018. These reports highlighted comprehensive enforcement actions undertaken by the Government of Pakistan to address these concerns. While the APG was analyzing our report, on 20 January 2018 the US and UK jointly submitted a letter to the FATF, nominating Pakistan for placement in the Grey List. France and Germany subsequently joined this nomination.
Pakistan has serious concerns over and objections to the introduction of this new procedure, which is unprecedented and in clear violation of established rules/practices of FATF. Since 2015, time and again the goal posts have been shifted for reporting by Pakistan. This has made it into a never-ending monitoring process. The objective of raising these new issues seems to be to suddenly raise an alarm on the overall integrity of Pakistan’s AML/CFT framework. The initiation of this action without waiting for completion of Pakistan’s Mutual Evaluation is designed to manipulate the FATF process. The real aim of this politically motivated move is to hamper Pakistan’s economic progress.
On Mr. Paracha’s second question, we are still reviewing this report, which is an annual exercise on part of the US intelligence community to present a global threat assessment to the Congress. The singular negative focus on Pakistan’s nuclear programme is extremely unfortunate. We have consistently maintained that Pakistan’s nuclear posture is purely defensive, in order to deter the aggressive designs of its hostile neighbor in the East. The complete silence of the report on India’s ambitious nuclear programme and delivery system is really surprising and smacks of partisanship. Any credible threat assessment should have cautioned the world about India’s fast growing nuclear stockpiles and development of long-range delivery systems that have ignited a new arms race in our region.
Local media is circulating a news story regarding Pakistan’s Ambassador to Australia’s alleged mistreatment of her local Pakistani servant, and the reasons for which he absconded to seek asylum in Australia. What are Foreign Office’s comments on this?
Secondly, reportedly, prominent American author Steve Coll, in his new book ”Directorate S”, has revealed that Pakistan’s intelligence has been providing massive support to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. How do you respond to these allegations? (Mateen Haider – Bol News)
US is withdrawing its troops from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan instead. As a neighbouring country, how does Pakistan see the increase of US troops in Afghanistan? (Rashida Sial – Abb Tak)
The US is indulging in Cold War once again, and Pakistan is under immense pressure. What will be our strategy this time? (Salman Hashmi – Forensic Eye)
On your first question, an inquiry has been initiated in the matter. We shall revert after ascertaining facts.
On your second question, Pakistan’s position on the issue is very clear. We have repeatedly denied these baseless allegations. Pakistan is the only country in the region that has successfully turned the corner in its fight against terrorism by conducting indiscriminate and comprehensive counter-terrorism operations. Today, we are proud to state that there is no organized presence of any militant group on the Pakistani soil. We continue to squeeze space for any remnants, in our own national interest.
Regarding shifting of US troops to Afghanistan, our position is consistent and clear. We believe that only a politically negotiated peace process, which is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, can bring lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. We have repeatedly urged the international community to recognize this crucial factor in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has recently rendered ‘support’ to some events in Pakistan, linking them to secessionist tendencies within the country. This is an open interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs, and a blatant violation of the UN Charter! What steps have we taken to register our concerns?
Secondly, reportedly, Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been closed for trade for nearly a month. What are the reasons behind this closure? What effect would this closure have on Pak-Afghan economy? (Essa Naqvi – Dunya News)
We have seen the tweets by the Afghan leadership in the wake of a sit-in for the arrest of the accused in Naqeebullah Mehsud’s case. The Afghan leadership has tried to portray the sit-in in a different light. The tweets are tantamount to interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the sit-ins in response to the case are being projected in a different light. The issue is that of a legal and administrative nature and any attempt to politicize it is unacceptable. We believe this tendency should be avoided.
On your second question, border crossings have not been closed. However, Pakistan has enforced phytosanitary requirements in line with its international obligations under the WTO/SPS agreements. Technical experts are now placed at our borders for this purpose. Every effort is being made to facilitate the smooth movement of fruits and vegetables coming into Pakistan.
Reportedly, a Pakistani student belonging to Muzaffarabad inadvertently crossed the LoC last week, where Indian police arrested him. The parents of the student have appealed the Government to bring back their son. Can you confirm this incident? Has our Mission sought consular access for the child from Indian authorities?
Secondly, India did not allow several hundred Hindu yatrees to travel to Pakistan through Wagha border, while Pakistan has always welcomed them whole-heartedly. How does this reflect on the attitude and policies of both countries? (Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail Islamabad)
On your first question, we have seen the media reports. The Indian side has not provided any information so far. Our Mission is in touch with Indian authorities for ascertaining facts.
On your second question, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, Pakistan had made all the arrangements for the visit of the pilgrims, who, regrettably, were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi due to non – issuance of NOC by the Ministry of External Affairs of India. Recently, India has also denied the visits of Sikh pilgrims, followed by that of Zaireens from Pakistan, and now Katas Raj Pilgrims, the opportunity to participate in their religious festivals. The Indian actions run counter to the letter and spirit of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and an obstruction for the people to people contacts. Such steps violate the basic human right to religious freedoms and are indicative of the escalatory ladder on which the Government of India has embarked. These are against the spirit of peace and tranquility that Pakistan has been trying to promote.
Regarding the network of human smuggling operative in Pakistan, has the Foreign Office devised any strategy to intercept this network, so that their families do not have to go through this ordeal? (Shahzad Mirza – Royal News)
The matter pertains to the Ministry of Interior. However, the Foreign Office is undertaking all steps to facilitate the stakeholders in this regard.
Reportedly, TTP has confirmed the death of their deputy leader Khalid Mehsud alias Commander Sajna in a recent US drone strike in the tribal areas of Pak-Afghan border. Can you confirm the death of the Taliban leader? (Saad Umar – Roze News)
We have seen media reports about the killing of the terrorist Khalid Saeed Sajna in a drone strike inside Afghanistan. As this drone strike happened in Afghanistan, the Afghan authorities and the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) may be able to confirm it. TTP, as we all know, is a sworn enemy of the people of Pakistan and is also proscribed by the UN. Hence, we appreciate that action against enemies of Pakistan is also being taken.
Now that US and India has joined hands to tighten the noose on Pakistan economically via FATF, and the two are playing a conspicuous and often anti-Pakistan role in Afghanistan, is Pakistan ready to defend itself against these foreign designs? (Salman Hashmi – Forensic Eye)
Pakistan is, and will always be, fully capable and prepared to counter any malicious designs.
According to a United Nations report, 48.1 percent of Pakistani women have no say in matters concerning their health care and are not educated enough to be aware of such a thing. I need your comments on this report!
Second, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, in a Senate hearing, has stated that India is lobbying against Pakistan. My question is that who is stopping Pakistan to lobby against India?
Third, I need your comment on Pakistan’s potential inclusion into the ”grey list” in the FATF! (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)
On your last question, I have already given a detailed statement. Further details can only be shared once the meeting takes place.
Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination will be in a better position to respond to your first question.
Regarding your question on the comments by the Defence Minister, Pakistan is actively lobbying to safeguard its core national interests.
Last week, Indian DHM complained that he is summoned to the Foreign Office many times a week, while the Indian External Affairs Ministry summons Pakistani very occasionally. How do you respond to this complain, particularly when India is shoring up heavy machinery towards Pak-India border, and indiscriminately carrying out LoC & WB violations? (Auon Sherazi – Such TV)
The responsibility of Pakistan is to effectively and emphatically defend its borders, be they physical, diplomatic, political or intellectual. We have raised the matter of Indian belligerent posture towards Pakistan at various relevant forums and the international community. What India fails to recognize is that unless and until the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir is resolved, as per the aspirations of the Kashmiri people, in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions, there can be no end to conflict in the region. It is imperative for India to internalize the seriousness of the matter and engage in uninterruptable and uninterrupted dialogue with Pakistan. Pakistan has always welcomed dialogue, with dignity. All other issues are secondary to the core issue of Jammu & Kashmir.
How do you comment on the recent reports that the Afghan Taliban have offered to talk to the US? (Fakhar Rahman – SAMAA TV)
Pakistan has always stated that a sustainable dialogue can lead to the resolution of the Afghan problem. This has been reflective in Pakistan’s conduct of foreign policy towards Afghanistan. For instance, the recent visits of Afghan Interior Minister, the NDS Chief and subsequently, the Deputy Foreign Minister to Pakistan, and our Foreign Secretary and Army Chief’s visits to Afghanistan are steps in the right direction. This is a manifestation of the will of both sides to engage in a meaningful dialogue, as the only way forward for resolving the differences amongst each other.
You mentioned about Pakistan’s active lobbying. Could you give details of how Pakistan is lobbying against India, particularly when it is vigorously involved in making inroads into those countries that were traditionally allies of Pakistan? A recent case in point is that of India acquiring a strategic port of Oman. What are your comments on the Indian threat to Pakistan? (Syed Mohsin Raza – Asas Group of Publications)
Pakistan has clearly defined priorities and national interest. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor figures prominently in this calculation. It is a huge investment and connectivity project that Pakistan and China are jointly undertaking. It goes without saying that the people of Pakistan have already begun to see the dividends of this project. Pakistan is uniquely placed at geo-strategic crossroads. Our policies are well construed and thought-out and are aligned with our foreign policy imperatives and national interest.
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has recently warned that Pakistan will have to pay for attacks on Indian army camp in IoK. How do you respond to this warning? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal – Kashmir Post)
We have seen the reports you refer to. India has a kneejerk tendency to assign unilateral blame without evidence – Pakistan has been blamed for spy pigeons and worse – Pakistan strongly rejects the allegations of certain Indian police and defence officials, and media insinuations in connection with the reported attack on Sunjwan camp in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir. It is a well established pattern that Indian officials begin making irresponsible statements and leveling unfounded allegations, even before any proper investigation in any incident has been initiated. A particular segment in the Indian media runs with their innuendos to malign Pakistan and whips up public frenzy. We are confident that the world community would take due cognizance of India’s smear campaign against Pakistan and the deliberate creation of war hysteria.
If India is bent upon aggression, Pakistan is fully capable of defending itself. The Pakistani nation should not be taken for granted by anyone. If India wants peace then it should refrain from aggressive rhetoric with the sole objective of securing electoral wins.
You talked about Pakistan’s foreign policy priorities, and close relations with Saudi Arabia. However, Indian Foreign Minister has recently visited the Kingdom and it was agreed that Saudi Arabia would act as the flying zone between India and Israel direct flights. How do you comment on this development? (Moazam Ali Rana – Jahan-e-Pakistan)
Our relations with Saudi Arabia are very deep and historic. Pakistan does not comment on the bilateral relations between any two countries.
It is being reported that Pakistani IDPs temporarily residing in Afghan border areas (inside Afghanistan) were shot and threatened by TTP and other terrorist organizations. Pakistan has taken note of this development and requested the Afghan Government to protect Pakistani IDPs and send them back, but this is not happening. What is your comment on this?
Second, Iran’s Oil Minister has recently stated that Pakistan does not want to implement the IP Gas pipeline or import gas from Iran and that Iran will take Pakistan to the International Court of Arbitration. How do you comment on this statement, especially when many such statements are surfacing from Iran in the recent months?
There are reports that a Pakistani delegation that went to US to discuss Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban with the CIA was barred from meeting any CIA officials. Moreover, the delegation was told that there was no clear evidence that the people Pakistan recently handed over to Afghanistan were terrorists. Your comments please! (Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)
On your first question, in 2014, the launching of Operation Zarb-I-Azb resulted in the displacement of people from FATA. Soon after elimination of militants and resultant restoration of state writ in these areas, the Government initiated the task of physical reconstruction and rehabilitation of FATA, followed by the resettlement of the dislocated persons in their hometowns. The families who had temporarily shifted to the Afghan side of Pak-Afghan border in the wake of the military operation also started returning to their respective areas. During 2017, around 4000-5000 families returned from Afghanistan. The FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) is engaged in facilitating repatriation of the remaining tribal families from Afghanistan.
Pakistan has generously hosted millions of Afghan refugees with dignity and honour for the last four decades. We expect Afghanistan to ensure safety of Pakistani tribesmen in their temporary abodes and facilitate their repatriation to their native land. Pakistan will take all necessary steps to ensure safety, security and well-being of its nationals and make arrangements for their return and resettlement in their villages and towns. We remain engaged with the Afghan side on this matter.
On the second question, Pakistan and Iran are brotherly countries. Our engagement with Iran has strengthened particular in the past couple of years. Our trade has increased and we are effectively using border coordination for preventing illegal movements and promoting cross-border trade and people-to-people contacts. Similarly, IP Gas Pipeline is also a project of mutual interest, because of Pakistan’s growing energy needs Pakistan is, and will, remain engaged with Iran on these projects. You may seek further details from the Ministry of Energy.
Regarding the third question, I am not aware of any such development. However, I will check and get back to you.
What has been the outcome of the ongoing engagement between US administration and Pakistani officials? Also, although we engage in dialogue with Afghanistan, we see that Afghan President issues a derogatory statement every time there are prospects of talks. The same happens with India. Please comment on this! (Irfan Tariq – Daily Ausaf)
On the US, we have said many times that talks are ongoing at all levels. Right now, both sides are engaged in this dialogue outside the public glare. We are hopeful that common ground can be achieved through this dialogue.
On Afghanistan, you are aware that we are constantly engaged with the Afghan officials, as evident from many visits from and to both countries, as I also mentioned earlier. Pakistan’s position on the Afghan problem is also very clear and on public record.
Regarding CPEC, is there any decision by the Pakistan and China to include other countries into CPEC, and if so, under what mechanism? (Anwar Abbas – Nawa-e-Waqt)
CPEC is a connectivity project between Pakistan and China. Any expansion in the project will be done with the consent and concurrence of both countries.
Last modified: November 22, 2019
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