(2018-03-15) [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:

Our High Commissioner in New Delhi has been asked to come to Islamabad for consultations.

The Indian Deputy High Commissioner Mr. J.P. Singh was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest was lodged at the maltreatment being meted out to the officials and families of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. This deliberate bullying, which continues is not confined to a single isolated event and continues unabated despite repeated official protests lodged with the Indian High Commission here, and also with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs at the highest.Our High Commission also shared photographs identifying the individuals, who forcibly halted and took pictures of the officers, with the Indian External Affairs Ministry. Regrettably no positive action has been taken by the Indian side so far. The total apathy and failure of the Indian Government to put a halt to these despicable incidents, sparing not even young children, indicates both a lack of capacity to protect foreign diplomats posted in India or a more reprehensible, complicit unwillingness to do so. Under the Vienna Convention, the safety and the security of Pakistani diplomats and their families is the responsibility of the Indian Government.

The Indian occupation forces in IoK have martyred five Kashmiris during last week, including two engineering graduates, Muhammad Esha Fazali and Syed Owais Shafi Shah, a 60-year-old Abdul Aziz Ahanger and Ashiq Hussain Chopan (25) in Hakoora Kokernag, Delina and Awantipora areas. We also condemn the continued illegal detention of the Hurriyet leadership including Syed Ali Gilani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Shabbir Ahmad Shah, Masrrat Alam But, Nayeem Ahmad Khan and Dr. Qasim Fakhtoo.

Pakistan raised the issue of India’s grave human rights violations in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK) during the 37th Session of UN Human Rights Council, being held in Geneva, Switzerland. Pakistan called on India to stop killing Kashmiri civilians, end the impunity enjoyed by its security forces and allow unfettered access to UN Fact-finding Team to investigate the human rights violations in IoK. India’s denial of access to the UN Fact-finding Team is a “desperate attempt” to hide its atrocities in “the most militarized zone of the world.” Terming the Indian illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir as the “root of the problem”, Pakistan demanded the UN to continue documenting human rights abuses by India in IoK. India must end its illegal occupation and resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people, as laid down in numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

In his annual report to the Human Rights Council, on the sidelines of the 37th UN HRC Session, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has regretted India’s denial of unconditional access to UN Human Rights investigators to Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The report by the UN Human Rights Commissioner also noted with concern that discrimination and violence directed at minorities, particularly Muslims is on the rise in India. In some cases, this injustice appears actively endorsed by local or religious officials.

Foreign Minister of Iran, Dr. Javad Zarif visited Pakistan from 11-13 March, 2018 and held consultations on bilateral relations and regional peace and security with Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two sides agreed to continue engagement for enhancing economic cooperation including bilateral trade, investments and commercial interaction, in order to promote the shared prosperity. They reiterated their resolve to achieve the target of $ 5 billion by 2021, through regular exchange of trade delegations, establishing banking channels, holding trade exhibitions and addressing tariff and non-tariff barriers. They further resolved to conclude the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on priority. The Foreign Ministers underlined that as two brotherly neighbouring countries Iran and Pakistan would deepen connectivity between the two sister ports of Gawadar and Chahbahar to benefit from their complementarities. The two Foreign Ministers also exchanged views on important developments on regional and international peace and security. They supported the political resolution of the Afghan conflict for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the region. Pakistan and Iran reiterated support for the peaceful struggle of the peoples of Palestine and Kashmir for realization of the right to self determination. The two countries also emphasized the need for honouring of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commitments by all parties.

Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua visited Washington on 7-8 March 2018. She met senior US officials including the US Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. John Sullivan at the State Department and the Deputy National Security Advisor Dr Nadia Schadlow at the White House. The Foreign Secretary had in-depth discussions with the South Asia experts at the US Institute of Peace (USIP). She also interacted with the US and local Pakistani media. During her meetings, both sides agreed to strengthen their long-standing relationship. She reaffirmed Pakistan’s constructive approach to work together with the United States for regional peace and stability. She also expressed the hope that enhanced economic engagement and realizing the economic potential in the relationship can open new vistas of long-term cooperation, strengthening the existing bonds of friendship between the peoples of the two countries.

During the 41st Session of the Islamic Commission for Economic, Cultural and Social Affairs (ICECS) held in Jeddah from 13-15 March 2018, Pakistan was elected a member of the Governing Boards of the three OIC Subsidiary Organs a) Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade (ICDT), Headquarters; Casablanca; b) Islamic University of Technology (IUT), Headquarters; Dhaka; c) Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), Headquarters; Istanbul.

Pakistan’s election to these OIC Subsidiary Organs reflects Pakistan’s deep engagement with OIC and its endeavours to enhance cooperation in various fields, among Muslim countries. It also reflects the trust and confidence that Pakistan enjoys among OIC member countries. Pakistan would play an active role in these bodies to promote intra OIC trade, excellence in education and development in Islamic art and culture. Pakistan is host to the OIC Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH).

The 8th Round of the Pakistan-Czech Republic Bilateral Political Consultations was held in Islamabad on 13 March 2018. The two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and identified opportunities and possibilities for further cooperation, especially in the spheres of trade, investment, defence, education, culture, parliamentary exchanges and people-to-people contacts.

Pakistan strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mosalla-e-Mazar area of Kabul on 09 March 2018. We are grieved at the loss of precious lives in the brutal attack of terrorism. We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured. Pakistan reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all forms and manifestations and expresses solidarity with the government and people of Afghanistan in their fight against the menace of terrorism. We believe concerted efforts by states, and close cooperation among them, are needed for eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

The people and Government of Pakistan are deeply saddened at the tragic crash of a passenger aircraft of Bangladesh, resulting in the loss of precious lives. We convey our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the departed souls and pray for the speedy recovery of the survivors.

The Government and people of Pakistan would like to convey their deepest grief and sorrow over the reported loss of several precious lives as well as injuries to many more as a result of a bus accident in Corum province of Turkey, on 13 March 2018. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy, and their families. We also pray for the swiftest recovery of all those injured.

Governments of Pakistan and Somalia have signed a Government to Government MoU, wherein NADRA would assist in introducing a bio-metric ID system in Somalia. The MoU was signed on 09 March 2018 between the Somali Ambassador in Islamabad and our Minister of Interior at the Prime Minister’s Office. NADRA has also signed a similar agreement with Niger.

Now the Floor is open for Questions


My question pertains to the recent harassment carried out by Indian officials of Pakistani diplomats and their families residing in India. In your view, on which agenda is India working? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal – Daily Kashmir Post)

Supplementary Questions

We have seen the way Britain has reacted to alleged Russian involvement an espionage case, wherein UK has recently expelled 23 Russian diplomats. On the other hand, Pakistan continues to hand over Demarches to Indian High Commission in Islamabad, while India continues to pose danger for Pakistan at LoC and the Working Boundary, and harassment of its diplomats. What other options does Pakistan have in this scenario, keeping in view the recent diplomatic spat between Russia and the UK? (Syed Mohsin Raza – Asas Group of Publications)

Regarding the recent harassment of Pakistani diplomats, Indian External Affairs Ministry has issued a statement saying that similar incidents have happened in Pakistan with the Indian diplomats. What is your comment on it? (Tariq Mahmood – SAMAA TV)

Reportedly, Indian ruling party, BJP is vigorously preparing for 2019 elections and is already using anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric, to gain Hindu votes. How does Pakistan comment on the compulsions of Indian domestic politics as it endanger prospects of regional peace? (Asghar Ali Mubarak – Daily Mail Islamabad)

Is reducing the number of Pakistani diplomats from India on the cards after this incident? (Abdul Wadood Qureshi – Khabrain)

We have seen Foreign Office’s condemnation of the recent harassment by India of Pakistani officials. Has Pakistan raised this issue with the international community in general, and with friendly countries in particular? (Zameer – IP News)

After this harassment incident, is Pakistan considering to declare India a non-family station? Second, India is involved in blatant violation of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations of 1961. Is Pakistan considering to seek arbitration of the International Court of Justice regarding the matter? (Faisal Raza Khan – 92 News)

Do you think that this recent dip in diplomatic relations between the two countries, and India’s harassment of Pakistani officials as a result of the delay in membership process of Islamabad Club of Indian officials? (Rashida Sial – Abb Tak)


I do not think that these incidents of harassment are linked to the membership process of a private entity, like the Islamabad Club in Pakistan, nor should it become a reason for escalation and preposterous behavior by India. The issue has been raised at the highest level with the Indian side. As I have mentioned in my opening remarks, we have called our High Commissioner to Pakistan for consultations.

We will take all possible steps for the safety and security of our people in India, which is paramount to us. The Foreign Secretary is in constant touch with all stakeholders in this regard. We will share any further updates in due course.

On the question regarding BJP’s anti-Pakistan rhetoric, rising extremism and prejudice in India is an alarming development. Maltreatment of minorities, especially Muslims, Sikh, Christians and Daalits is the norm with incidents of religious intolerance, bias and violence on the rise. Reputable international organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have already criticized India especially complicit government support to such incidents in some cases. Similarly Pakistan bashing has been an unfortunate norm in Indian politics for some time. Fanning and exploiting xenophobia, aggression and hatred against any community or country belies the sad reality behind the Indian shame-o-cracy. It is to India’s own benefit to curtail this trend which is detrimental, most of all for India itself.


The IAEA Chief has visited Pakistan this week. What was the purpose of his visit? Was the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets a focus during the meeting? Please share the details. (Mateen Haider – Freelance Journalist)


Mr. Yukia Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), visited Pakistan to discuss cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. This was his second visit to Pakistan since 2014 during which he called on the Prime Minister as well. During his stay in Pakistan, Director General Amano visited various civilian nuclear installations and facilities including the construction sites of K2 and K3 nuclear power plants. He held meetings with the Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the Chairman of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). Discussions at these meetings focused on the importance of nuclear power as a clean source of energy as well as nuclear technology applications in areas such as agriculture, health, industry, water resource management, environment protection, and food safety. Director General Amano also inaugurated a Food Security Lab at Nuclear Institute for Agriculture and Biology in Faisalabad.

Director General Amano appreciated the role played by Pakistan at the IAEA as well as Pakistan’s contributions in the area of peaceful nuclear applications. He acknowledged the excellent and robust nuclear safety and security measures put in place by Pakistan.

Pakistan is a founding member of the IAEA since 1957 and has enjoyed longstanding and mutually beneficial collaboration with the Agency on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It regularly serves on the IAEA’s Board of Governors and is also one of the largest recipients of the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Program in peaceful uses of nuclear technology. On the other hand, scientists and engineers from Pakistan have contributed to the Agency’s work in various fields. Pakistan also continues to host various IAEA sponsored international events on nuclear safety and security.


Reportedly, Alice Wells has also said that US cannot hold direct talks with Taliban, and has instead urged them to talk directly to the Kabul government. How will you respond to this statement?

Second, a poster protmoting an anti-Muslim campaign to be launched on 03 April 2018 is doing the rounds in the UK. It particularly discriminates against Muslim women and incite people to physically abuse Muslims for their misdeeds. What is Pakistan’s reaction to this alleged campaign considering that majority of the Muslims residing in UK are Pakistanis? (Salman Hashmi – Freelance Journalist)


Regarding your first question, Pakistan believes that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and the imbroglio can only be settled through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. The peace process should be actively pursued to bring an end to the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan. Our position on the way forward in the Afghan conflict is clear. We believe that lasting peace in Afghanistan can be achieved only through an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue. The support of all actors, domestic and international, in Afghanistan would be important for the success of such a process.

Regarding your second question, I will get the specific details and revert.


Iran’s Foreign Minister has reportedly offered Pakistan to come join Chahbahar port. It may be recalled that Iran had recently signed an agreement to lease out the same port to India for 18 months. Have any operational details been shared with us regarding Iran’s offer? What was Pakistan’s response to this?

Second, is their any decision on when Pakistan’s Ambasador-designate to the US, Mr. Ali Jahangir Saddique will assume charge in his new assignment?

Third, a recent PILDAT report has stated Chief of Army Staff has played an active role in shaping Pakistan’s foreign policy, by meeting various Ambassadors in Islamabad, and visiting important countries. In your view, what specific role is the Army playing in this regard? (Rashida Sial – Abb Tak)

Supplementary Question

Regarding Mr. Ali Jahangir Siddiqui’s appointment, we saw the press release issued by former Pakistani Ambassadors, expressing their deep concern and shock. What are your comments on his appointment? (Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)

Reportedly, Foreign Minister of Iran has conveyed that Iran wants to connect Chahbahar with CPEC, and wants to become a part of the Pakistan-China connectivity project. What is Pakistan’s response to this? (Zahid Khan – Frontier Post)

When the Government decided to nominate Mr. Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, did it send his nomination papers to the Foreign Office? If so, did the Foreign Office send his name to our agencies for clearance as is the normal procedure? (Abdul Dawood Qureshi – Khabrain)


On the appointment of Mr. Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, this is an administrative matter, so I will not comment any further.

Regarding PILDAT’s report, I have not seen the relevant report. To the best of my knowledge, Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains the core institution for the formulation and implementation of foreign policy. You may ask ISPR for any further details regarding your question.

On Ms. Sial’s question about Iran, Iran’s offer for investment in Chahbahar port is open to several countries, including Pakistan. From our perspective, Chahbahar and Gawadar as sister ports complement each other in promoting future trade, transit and connectivity. Our Minister of Maritime Affairs participated in the inauguration of a part of the Chabahar port. We will continue to work with Iran for deepening connectivity between the two ports.

On Mr. Zahid ‘s question about Iran’s participation in CPEC, yes, Iranian Foreign Minister broached this idea and it will be examined.


According to a latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India has become the world’s largest importer of arms. How do you see the increasing trend of arms build-up in our neighborhood?

Second, in your opening remarks, you offered condolences to the people and Government of Bangladesh. I want to ask that the last bilateral political consultations, or you may call it the last meaningful bilateral engagement between both sides happened in 2010. For the past years, this engagement has not seen any way forward. Do you see any interaction in the future?

Lastly, the recently released Pakistani from Indian jail, Mr. Siraj-u-din, has asked Pakistan to bring his family to Pakistan also. What efforts will Pakistan be carrying out in this regard? (Tariq Mahmood – SAMAA TV)


On your first question, Pakistan is not oblivious to the arms buildup in its neighbourhood. We are opposed to any arms race in South Asia and have been proposing measures for promoting restraint in both the nuclear and conventional domains. We expect external players to be mindful of the imperative of maintaining strategic stability in the region and refrain from policies that generate imbalances.

Regarding your second question, the bilateral political consultations with Bangladesh are on the cards. We will share details soon.

On your last question, Mr. Siraj-u-din is now back in Pakistan. He claims to have inadvertently entered India via Samjhauta Express train, and was arrested by the Indian officials. He has left behind an Indian wife and children. We are in the process of ascertaining all details in the matter, and will proceed accordingly.


Was any agreement signed during Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan?

Second, what are your views on the recent exchange of visits between officials from Pakistan and Russia as this is the second visit in one month of Russian NSA to Pakistan? (Kausar Lodhi – Prime News)


On your first question, we have already issued a press release on the visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister and have nothing more to add.

On your second question, you are well aware that Pakistan is actively reaching out to Russia to strengthen and broaden our bilateral relationship. The visit should be viewed in this context.


Reportedly, the State Department may downgrade Pakistan to ‘Tier Three’ of their ‘Trafficking in Persons (TIP)’ watch list if Washington is not convinced by the report that Islamabad is going to submit regarding human trafficking, by the end of this month. Please share more details in this regard!

Second, please share the outcome of the Foreign Secretary’s recent visit to the US. How much has it helped in finding common ground between both countries? (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)


On your second question, we are confident that both sides will find common ground. This is why such visits are happening, and more will ensue. I have already given details of the Foreign Secretary’s visit to the US in my opening remarks.

On your first question, it would be premature to comment on presumptions. The Government has made significant efforts in all relevant areas to meet the standards for the elimination of trafficking by increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. A detailed report prepared by the Ministry of Interior (FIA) on the measures undertaken during the past year, has been prepared in this regard.


Firstly, I asked last week about reports that fifty Chinese women, who married men belonging to Gilgit Baltistan are detained in China. What role can Foreign Office play in this regard?

Second, Foreign Minister of Iran was in Pakistan for three days. Previously, there was a tradition that visiting dignitaries used to have media interaction. Did Iran specifically ask not to have it this time?

Third, regarding the recent anti-Muslim campaign in UK, has Pakistan summoned UK’s High Commissioner to ascertain details! (Fida Hussain – Radio News Network)


On your last question, as I said earlier, I will get details and revert.

On your second question, Joint Press Stakeouts are not a pre-requisite for any incoming visit.

On your first question, Pakistan and China discuss all issues of mutual interest.


US has announced a US $5 million award for information leading to arrest of Afghanistan-based TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah. The US also announced a US $3 million reward each, for information on Abdul Wali, of Jamaat ul-Ahrar (JuA), and Mangal Bagh leader of Lashkar-e-Islam. How does Pakistan see this announcement by the US?

Second, reportedly, US diplomat Alice Wells has said that Pakistan can play a key role in shaping Afghan Taliban’s behaviour and has also asked Pakistan to take steps to thwart Taliban’s ‘Spring Offensive’. Do you agree with this statement? Just how much influence Islamabad exerts on Afghan Taliban? (Essa Naqvi – Dunya News)


On your second question, we do not have a lot of influence on Afghan Taliban. I have already responded to a similar question.

On your first question, we are all aware of the atrocities committed by these individuals. They have been involved in killing and maiming innocent children, women and men in Pakistan. No one in Pakistan can ever forget the atrocious attack on Army Public School, Peshawar where children of this nation were brutally attacked. While our efforts to eliminate these savages are underway, we consider the US decision to announce head money on these terrorists a welcome step. More needs to be done.


During the ongoing 37th UN Human Rights Session in Geneva, was any official delegation sent from Pakistan? If so, what is the composition and details of the delegation? (Abid Khursheed – ATV)


I will get back to you on this.


In view of our past relationship with Iran, Afghanistan and the US, what could Pakistan do to further strengthen our ties with these countries? (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal – Kashmir Post)


Pakistan and Iran enjoy excellent bilateral relations. This is evident from the recent exchange of visits between both sides. The Foreign Minister of Iran paid a visit to Pakistan last week. Earlier our Army Chief, Chairman Senate, Foreign Minister and Speaker National Assembly also visited Iran.

With the US, you are all well aware of the current situation, particularly in the aftermath of the US South Asia and Afghanistan policy. However, active negotiations and outreach continues is going on between both sides. It is a difficult balancing act and both sides have conveyed their reservations and differences on the new US strategy to each other. We are actively seeking to find common ground, as is manifested in continued engagement at all levels between Pakistan and the US.

On Afghanistan, in February alone, two high level visits from both sides took place to decide the way forward for Pakistan-proposed APAPPS, culminating in President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to Taliban for dialogue. We welcome this initiative, and are desirous of lasting peace and security in Afghanistan.


Government of Pakistan has a policy that Grade 20-22 officers are given money in lieu of official car, and are required to sign an affidavit not to use official cars at all. However, Foreign Secretary, despite submitting the affidavit, has continued to use official cars. What is your comment on this? (Auon Sherazi – Such TV)


We deny this allegation as completely and utterly baseless.


Although it is an internal matter of the US, the gentleman who is now assuming the charge of US Secretary of State, is known to be very hawkish towards Pakistan. Previously, when he served as CIA Chief, was known for his anti-Pakistan policies. What are your thoughts on the change in the top level of the US Administration in the context of Pak-US relationship? (Mateen Haider – Freelance Journalist)


This reshuffle in the US Administration is purely an internal matter of the US. We look forward to working with the new Secretary of State, in actively seeking to find common ground between both sides.


Firstly, what restrictions have been levied on the movement of Pakistani diplomats and their families in India?

Second, Afghan media has reported that after fencing the border the Pakistan Army is making efforts to establish military posts beyond the international border, and inside Afghan soil. What are your comments on this report? (Amjad Ali – PTV News)


We have already responded in detail to India’s harassment of Pakistani diplomats and their families.

On your second question, Pakistan is engaged in building border control infrastructure along Pak-Afghan border with a view to facilitate trade and transit, encourage and support legitimate travel and check illegal cross border movement of people and goods between the two countries. We are undertaking this exercise on our side of the border. Any reports contrary to this are factually incorrect and are being disseminated with ill intentions.


Pakistan has welcomed the US decision to offer a handsome reward on TTP and JuA leaders. However, you said that more needs to be done. What specific steps do you have in mind? (Rabia Pir – VOA)


These designated organizations were involved in perpetrating one of the most heinous and tragic terrorist incidents in Pakistan on the Army Public School, Peshawar. We can never accept that terrorists based in Afghanistan target Pakistani people in any way. Therefore, Allied Forces in Afghanistan need to capture all these terrorists and bring them to justice.


India is isolating Pakistan on every front. We have Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev as a proven case of Indian sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. Why have we not been able to further this stance against India? (Sardar Amir Alamgir – Daily Madaar)


I don’t agree with your analysis about India isolating Pakistan, or our lack of action in propagating our stance regarding Commander Kulbhushan Jhadev. Indian attempts of isolating Pakistan have failed miserably. Right after India started pumping up the concocted notion of isolation, after scuttled the SAARC Summit, Pakistan successfully held the ECO Summit with seven Heads of State and two Heads of Government in Islamabad along with their respective delegations. As recent as yesterday, Pakistan has been elected a member of the Governing Boards of three OIC Subsidiary Organs. We are members of 17 out of 18 UN Bodies. In fact, I can talk endlessly about how the world is actively engaging with Pakistan and vice versa.

Regarding Commander Kulbhsuhan Jhadev, Pakistan has nothing to hide. His apprehension has clearly brought to the fore front India’s open and blatant State-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. As a matter of fact, it is India that has nowhere to hide. That is why it has failed to respond to Pakistan’s questions with respect to who was Hussain Mubarak Patel, and how his passport was in possession of Kulbhushan Jhadev; if Commander Jhadev had retired from Indian Navy, why are the details of his pension not being shared with us; what was he doing in Chahbahar etc. We have forcefully taken up this matter at the highest level in all our bilateral and relevant multilateral interactions.

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