Media Briefing|

(2016-06-16) [This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.]

Opening Remarks

Dear Friends, Assalaam Alaikum

I begin with the good news that Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) gave Pakistan an Emerging Markets Index approval. The Pakistani KSE100 Index has risen by 14 percent so far this year, leading all the stock markets in Asia. As such, Karachi has been Asia’s best performing stock market this year, which led the MSCI to include Pakistan as Emerging Market. KSE stocks leapt to a record high yesterday on the back of MSCI’s decision.

After this ‘reclassification’, Pakistan is likely to receive about $475 million foreign portfolio investment in the next one year. This reclassification reflects our macroeconomic stability.

Another very important and good news awaits us. Next week Pakistan will sign the memorandum of obligation which will start the process for becoming member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Insha’Allah! Pakistan has been maintaining Observer Status with SCO for years.

Yesterday completed two years of Operation Zab-e-Azb. You might have seen Director General ISPR’s briefing in this regard. By the grace of Allah, two years after the consensual decision of the country’s leadership to root out terrorism without exception, we have turned the tide, and drastically reduced instances of terrorism in Pakistan, and have also cleared and secured the tribal areas. Our valiant soldiers and law enforcement officials have made ultimate sacrifices for us and made proud the entire nation with the unprecedented success.

Now the Floor is open for Questions


India is again blaming Pakistan for the Pathankot attack? Your comments please. Will Pakistan allow the NIA team to visit Pakistan?

Meanwhile in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IoK), there is a wave fresh human rights abuses by the Indian Army . During this fresh wave of violence, lots of Kashmiris have lost their lives. Has Pakistan taken up this issue at bilateral level and with other countries to sensitize them? (Mateen Haider – Dawn News)


You are referring to the statement by the NIA Director General when he said that they could not find any involvement of Pakistani government and agencies. Now, they are talking about involvement of some groups in Pakistan. The media reports you are referring to do not reflect ground realities.

The establishment of the JIT, registration of FIR and JIT’s visit to India from 27 March to 1 April 2016, are concrete manifestations of the cooperative approach being actively pursued by Pakistan. Whatever information and intelligence has been shared during JIT’s visit is being examined from various angles including its validity from legal angle.

Regarding the visit of NIA, as I mentioned that the matter is still being studied.

The Jammu and Kashmir dispute has always remained a part of the dialogue process with India and will remain so in all our future interactions and dialogue, whenever it takes place. Pakistan is committed to a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions which is in line with the aspiration of the Kashmiri people. The just struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir for the right to self determination cannot be ignored and suppressed through the brutal use of force.

We strongly condemn human rights violations by the Indian security forces in Indian occupied Kashmir. We have raised and will continue to raise these human rights violations at international fora as well as in our bilateral engagements. A number of international human rights organizations have presented reports on human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. At the OIC also, the importance of early resolution of the Kashmir dispute under the UNSC resolutions as per the wishes of the Kashmiri people has been recognized. The outcome of OIC Summit in Istanbul is reflective.


I want to ask about the border situation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. What diplomatic negotiations have been done to diffuse the issue? Kindly also comment on Indian investment in Afghanistan especially the dam that was recently in the news. (Khawaja Nayaar Iqbal – Kashmir Post)


Regarding the Torkham situation, both sides are in touch with each other at both diplomatic and military levels, with the view to address the tension and communication gap.

Regarding the dam, you are referring to is a matter of bilateral relations between Afghanistan and India. We usually do not comment on bilateral relations. If there is Afghan cooperation with India, there are multiple areas of Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation.

Afghanistan is our neighbor and we have a special relationship with it, routed in religion, common culture as well as the fraternal bond between the people of the two countries. Peace in Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest and we are sincerely making efforts at the QCG and other forums towards peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.


Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani recently said that Taliban are ready for the peace talks in the light of Sharia. Your comments.

Secondly, have the Taliban been recently contacted by any member of the QCG and what are the prospects of talks in the future? Your comments on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border tension and whether it relates to bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table? (Rabia Pir – VOA Radio)

Pakistan welcomes peace in Afghanistan and supports all such efforts. We are committed to an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. We are part of the QCG as facilitator for direct talks between Afghan Government and the Taliban and other groups.

Regarding the QCG, it was discussed during the recent visit of the US delegation. Moreover, all four members of the QCG remain committed to its goals i.e. peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.


I need a clarification from your earlier remarks, when you say that Pakistan and Afghanistan will remained engaged till they come with a solution. I want to ask what sort of solution are we looking for? Will we compromise on the border management gate/structure at Torkham and other check points, which are on our territory? Have we taken up the matter with the Afghan government diplomatically?

Secondly, it seems that there is a lot of pressure from all sides and we are somewhat defensive in our response on the issue of F-16s and the recent tension with Afghanistan. Your comments. (Shaukat Paracha – Aaj TV)


I was only referring to the current tension along the border. Whenever there are problems, both countries discuss them at various levels. This is what we are doing right now.

I disagree that we are too defensive. Our aim is to have peaceful relations with all countries. But when it comes to protecting our country’s interests, we remain proactive. The last couple of weeks have demonstrated that.

Pakistan’s relations are not just about 4-5 countries. We maintain very good relations with most countries in the world. Our country’s inherent strengths and our Diaspora abroad play an important role in highlighting the significance of Pakistan at the global stage.

We believe that effective border management is essential to address concerns on both sides and we have reiterated this time and again. This is an essential part of our counter terrorism efforts. The unregulated cross-border movements provide opportunity for infiltration to terrorists and militants. Border management is a key element of Pakistan’s strategy for fighting terrorism, addressing the issue of drug trafficking and other illegal activities. We are determined to put in place effective border control on the border crossings on our territory. The cooperation of Afghan Government can play an important role in achieving our shared objective of promoting lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, and the region.

Our border is long and porous and movement of unwanted elements to both sides cannot be controlled without effective border management. Border management requires infrastructure development and procedures. You cannot check documents of thousands of travelers without extensive infrastructure. The gate in Torkham is being built well inside Pakistan territory. We had engaged Afghan side on this earlier as also later. Unease, tension and border irritants are nothing unusual between countries with sharing borders and are addressed through negotiations.


Pakistan has hosted three million Afghan refugees after opening its doors to them, causing problems in our state and society. Unfortunately there is no recognition of our sacrifices on Afghan side. Then Pakistan tried its best to find a negotiated settlement of the Afghan issue under QCG. However, what we see now is firing from their side on Pakistan soldiers, resulting in one embracing shadadat and many being injured. Is this the reward we are getting for still hosting Afghan nationals? (Amjad Ali – PTV News)


Afghanistan is our neighbor and a brotherly nation. The number of Afghanis who sought refuge in Pakistan was much higher and initially they were six million. The figure you have cited are current number of refugees, many among them are irregular. We have been hosting the unprecedented number of refugees for over 35 years. Unfortunately, the Afghan people have suffered for so long. It is Pakistan’s earnest desire to see peace in that country so that the Afghans including the refugees live in peace. It is time for Afghanistan and international community to take steps to repatriate these refugees in a dignified manner.

Peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan as also the region.

Recent tension at the border is unfortunate and against the spirit of friendship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is based on common religion, shared cultural values and fraternal bonds between the people of the two countries. We have continued to make sincere and serious efforts for bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. The Afghans are being misguided by those who are not interested to see peace in Afghanistan. We have shared our concern and disappointment with the Afghan government and have urged them to take necessary steps to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future. We believe effective border management serves mutual interest.


I refer to Saudi Arabia’s efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. They have invited a Taliban delegation and are trying to facilitate dialogue with the Afghanistan government. Is Pakistan aware of this development and has it been consulted? (Jamal Ismail – Alhayat Newspaper London)


There are number of initiatives for peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan welcomes all efforts, which are aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.


I want to know about status on the Torkham border as well as the construction of the gate on the Pakistani side. (Ali Hussain – Business Recorder)

Supplementary Question

We have a 2400 km long border with Afghanistan and multiple crossings. Will there be more gates like the Torkham one in other parts of the border? (Nasar – BBC)


We will have such infrastructure, gates and trained personnel at other parts of the border. This is a start and gradually we will establish border management infrastructure at many other crossings.

Regarding the other question, I am not in a position to give you running commentary on the issue. At this moment, there is no movement of persons or goods at the border because of the recent situation. It’s not that we have closed the border as a policy decision. Movement of people and vehicles is not there because of the situation.


After his meeting with the Foreign Secretary, the Afghan Ambassador posted some tweets indicating that settlement had been reached on some issues. He has also mentioned “ceasefire” in his tweets. However, our statement after the meeting did not mention any breakthrough or a ceasefire. I wanted to know the present situation, is there a ceasefire at the border? Some diplomatic sources also revealed that Afghanistan has retracted its opposition to creation of Torkham like such border management structures. (Fayyaz Raja – Channel 24)


The Afghan Ambassador was called in by the Foreign Secretary to lodge protest over Shahdat of our Army officer. Subsequently, met the military authorities. May be the tweets were a result of the later meeting. During his talks at the Ministry as well as with military authorities, the aim was to defuse tension by resolving the issues and an attempt was made to remove misgivings or any communication gap regarding the issue.

Regarding ceasefire, as I said earlier, I am not present at the ground there. All I can say is that both sides are discussing all issues related to the current situation to resolve it. Like I said earlier, border issues are not unusual between neighbouring countries.


Iran has responded to Pakistan on Kulbhushan Yadav and had sent a response to the Interior Minister. What is their exact response?

Secondly, US State Department’s Spokesperson made some comments on the situation in Karachi. Your comments. (Anwar Abbas – Waqat News)


Pakistan and Iran have cooperative relations and this response that you are referring to is reflective of the cooperation between the two countries.

Regarding the US State Department’s Spokesperson, I have seen the record and to the question related to Karachi, he chose not to comment.


At least 16 experts in a letter to NSG Chairman Rafael Mariano Grossi have called for setting strong standards for new membership of NSG to strengthen global non-proliferation and disarmament regime. Your comments.

Secondly, Do you think Pakistan’s diplomacy has succeeded in stopping India’s entry into the NSG. What are your expectations from the June 20 meeting in Seoul? (Fakhar-ur-Rahman – Turkish News Agency)


Regarding your first question, this is in line with what Pakistan has been maintaining. Rather than country-specific exemptions, which override non-proliferation principles for strategic and commercial considerations, non-discriminatory criteria should be adopted which strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

We desire a level playing field and criteria based approach which treats the applications of Pakistan and India in a non-discriminatory manner. The two applications cannot be considered in isolation from the goal of maintaining strategic stability in South Asia. Strategic stability in South Asia is a critical factor to achieve non-proliferation objectives.

We expect that in their next meeting in Seoul, NSG countries will agree to initiate discussions on the developing criteria-based approach for NSG membership for non-NPT states which also takes into account the imperative of regional strategic stability and benefits for the non-proliferation regime.


Now, it is officially being said that refugee camps are safe heaven for the terrorists and terrorists are even receiving trainings in these camps. But as regard the repatriation of Afghan refugees, there are always extensions. What is the plan of Government of Pakistan to dismantle these safe heavens and to repatriate the Afghan refugees?

Secondly, during the recent tension with Afghanistan there has been military and diplomatic contacts, is there also any contact at the political level to resolve this issue? (Khalid Jamil- Abb Tak TV)


Regarding the second part of your question, I think when you say diplomatic, actually it is political. So, contact is there at the various levels to address the issue.

With regard to refugees you may like to check the details with the Ministry of Interior. With regard to extension of the date of repatriation, I have already mentioned that it is time for Afghanistan and the International Community to take steps to repatriate these refugees back to Afghanistan in a dignified manner.


You have not yet ratified or rejected the claims of ceasefire at Torkham . You have also said that officials of both countries are in contact with each other. Thus, what steps will be taken by both countries to stop such incidents in the future?

Secondly, US Senate has made the military aid of Pakistan conditional to its actions against the Haqqani Network. What are your comments on it? ( Fida Hussain-Radio News Network)


As regard your first question, this question has been already asked and I have replied to it. Afghans are being misguided. We have a special relationship with the Afghanistan and we want to resolve all our issues through dialogue. An objective of this dialogue is that there should be no communication gap in the future.

Regarding the US Senate bill, no new limitations have been added to it. All of its clauses have already been there. You know that counter-terrorism measures taken by Pakistan are not hidden from anyone. Many countries, including the US, have recognized our sacrifices in the war against terrorism. We repeatedly say that terrorism is a global phenomenon and it is not limited to one country. Also, it will not go away by the efforts of only one country. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was started two years ago. Under this operation, indiscriminate action has been taken against all terrorists


Just staying on the border tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan, my question specifically relates to the status of the border. We saw that last year as well when a construction team was attacked when it was building structures within Pakistani territory. Experts say that it has to do with Afghanistan’s refusal to accept the status of the international border. Few years ago, we heard that there were some working groups between Pakistan and Afghanistan on this issue. I want to check with you whether anybody is trying to work out the status of the border?

Secondly, does Pakistan have guarantees from its allies in the NSG that if India pushes for membership, it will be vetoed? I ask this because Indian officials including Ms.Sushma Swaraj have struck a very optimistic tone specifically on talks with China in this regard. (Qasim Nauman- Wall Street Journal)


I would not comment on their optimism but we have made it very clear what our principle position is. We have also made it very clear what happens when you give a country specific exemption and its negative implications. We have seen it in 2008 when India was given exemption. It had a negative impact on the strategic stability in the region. We hope that members of NSG recognize that. I have already expressed our hope that when they meet again in Seoul they will adopt a criteria based approach and not give any country specific exemption.

With regard to the other question, it is an internationally recognized border. The UN recognizes it, the US recognizes it, and UK recognizes it. I think all the countries in the world have recognized it as an international border. So there are no working groups actually working on it. There are other mechanisms, for trade, transit and consular matters.


Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia are facing difficulties regarding exit re-entry visa. What steps Foreign Office has taken in this regard? (Kashan Akmal- 7 News)


Rafia Zakaria also recently wrote a column on it. This question was also asked a few weeks ago. Our community members living in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia have been complaining about the difficulties in getting multiple exit/re-entry visas. Resident permit holders require exit permit while travelling out of the country and re-entry visas were easy to obtain. Those employed in white-collar jobs would receive multiple exit and re-entry visas and those hired in blue-collar jobs would get single exit/re-entry visas.

In recent past, our community members have complained that the passport Offices in Al-Khobar, Dammam and Jubail, all three located in the Eastern province, do not grant them exit/re-entry visas. As a result, several companies employing Pakistan nationals are not processing their cases for exit/re-entry visas. According to our Mission, some of the community members in the Eastern province after making extra efforts have received multiple exit/re-entry visas or single exit/re-entry visas.

Our Mission in Riyadh took up the matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 10 February 2016. The Mission was asked to furnish the names of the individuals who could not get visas. The Mission accordingly provided names of seven individual. According to Mission, a formal reply is awaited. They, however, received exit/entry visas from some other passport offices (outside Eastern province). Mission has forwarded another list of 27 Pakistan nationals on 26 April 2016, who have approached it with the same complaint. Mission has conveyed that the difficulties are being faced in the Eastern region only and no such problem has been reported from any other part of the Kingdom.

Our Ambassador in Riyadh called on Deputy Foreign Minister, Osama Ahmed Al-Sanousi, Head of the Consular Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 27 April 2016 and raised the matter with him. He informed the Ambassador that he is not aware if any such rule has been introduced that prohibit-exit/re-entry visas to Pakistan nationals. He assured the Ambassador that the matter will be taken up at higher level and efforts will be made to resolve the said problem.

I will get the update on the issue and revert.


After the attacks in Orlando ,USA , there was a statement by Presidential candidate Donald Trump that Pakistanis and Saudis are dangerous for America. What are the comments of Foreign Office on it? (Jamal Ismail- Al Hayat Newspaper)


I will not comment on what an individual is saying. Let me throw some light on what the Pakistani Diaspora has actually done in the USA. There is large Pakistani community, I think a couple of million in number. They have been there for ages and they have contributed significantly to the development of that country. Whether it is their GDP, or the health, engineering, science and technology sectors, you will find Pakistanis working in all these sectors with dedication. Their services have been regarded and acknowledged time and again. We have on record statements made by various levels of leadership in the US who have lavishly praised the Pakistani community and communities from other countries, as how they have helped shape the US what it is today. I will also like to invite your attention to a Muslim ex marine who saved the lives of tens of people inside the club, if you want to see it in the religious context. We need to reflect on these kind of acts also which Muslims are performing over there and the contributions Muslims have made over there. There is a significant presence of Muslims in these Western countries and they have significantly contributed towards economic and political development in these countries.


As you said in the opening statement that Pakistan is going to be a full member of SCO and we know that China has played an important role in it. Whether Pakistan is taking any steps to make China a full member of SAARC, as SAARC Summit is also going to be held in Pakistan this year? (Asghar Ali Mubarak- Daily Mail)


We have always appreciated China’s friendship with us. I would like to refer to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement in which they called for respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and recognition of enormous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. We deeply appreciate their support.

China is our trusted and time-tested friend. It has always supported Pakistan and it is a mutual feeling. Pakistan has also stood by China. As consensus is required for addition of new members in SCO, we are thankful to all countries which have supported our membership. It is a very important membership and that is why I mentioned it in my opening remarks as a very good piece of news for Pakistan.

On SAARC, I will say that it is a different organization from SCO. The dynamics of these two organizations are different. There is requirement of consensus for the addition of new members in SAARC. The issue of its expansion has been discussed a number of times. However, there are differences on this issue. Pakistan has supported that those countries, which are associated with SAARC as observer and have made substantial contributions, should be engaged further. China is a lead country in this regard. Thus, this issue is still under consideration that how can we expand and further strengthen this organization.

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